PROVIDENCE — Experts say that when it comes to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as required by a landmark climate change measure enacted last year, converting the Rhode Island’s electrical system to a reliance on renewable sources is the logical first step.
On the one hand, greening the power grid by accelerating the development of offshore wind and solar will be easier than reducing emissions caused by heating homes and businesses or traveling by car and truck. But it also makes sense, as any solution covering heating and on-road vehicle emissions will ultimately depend on a steady supply of clean electricity.
That’s why environmental advocates, public health groups and progressives are lining up behind legislation proposed in the General Assembly that would require Rhode Island to get all of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030.
Just as it did last year with the Climate Act, which made emissions reductions mandatory and enforceable in the Ocean State for the first time, the Rhode Environmental Council Island, the umbrella group that represents 60 of the state’s environmental groups, made updating the renewable energy standard its top priority during this legislative session.
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“We have to think about what we will need to decarbonize our transport system, to decarbonize our buildings. We will need more clean electricity. We will need a renewable energy standard that aligns with the market and really pushes the economy where we want it to go,” said Priscilla De La Cruz, president of the environment council, during from a recent House committee hearing.
Renewable energy schedule would be the most ambitious in the country
For the second year in a row, the bill was introduced in the House by Representative Deborah Ruggiero, a Democrat from Jamestown, and in the Senate by its Speaker, Dominick Ruggerio. It would codify into state law what former Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed in an executive order two years ago.
The short deadline is the most aggressive of any state in the country for full adoption of renewable electric supplies, according to the bill’s supporters.
Those backers include Raimondo’s successor, Gov. Dan McKee, who signed the climate law and whose administration says it supports the legislation.
“Reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions in the state’s electricity, heat and transportation sectors is integral to mitigating climate change and is now mandated by law under the 2021 Climate Act,” state Energy Commissioner Nicholas Ucci wrote in a letter to the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “By accelerating our adoption of renewable electricity using tools that include a robust renewable energy standard, Rhode Island can advance these vitally important goals, while generating new investment opportunities and job growth in the green economy.”
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He pointed to a report written a year ago by state-hired consultants, which concluded that it is possible to achieve a goal of 100% renewable by the end of this decade. When they released their findings in January 2021, they said Rhode Island would need to source about one and a half times more renewable energy than it had until then.
Total capacity then of about 900 megawatts has since grown to more than 1,000 megawatts, including about 400 megawatts of solar power, the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm, which was the nation’s first offshore wind farm, and the Revolution of 400 megawatts. Wind project, which has yet to be built in waters off the coast of the state.
If the Revolution proposal is developed, it would push the state’s total renewable energy supply above 40%. And if a proposed solicitation for an additional 600 megawatts of offshore wind capacity goes ahead, that would bring the total to more than 80%.
The rest, according to the report’s authors from The Brattle Group, a Boston-based consulting firm, could be met by large ground-mounted solar farms, smaller rooftop solar panels and the purchase of renewable energy certificates. – market products that represent the environmental benefits of clean energy generation.
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How would this affect residential electricity bills?
No matter how Rhode Island tried to meet the goal, it would cost electric subscribers more than they are currently paying, the report said. For a typical residential electricity bill, the impact would be between $11 and $14 per month, depending on the renewable source.
But the authors also found that the positive economic impacts of developing energy sources in the state – offshore wind, wholesale solar and rooftop solar – would outweigh the impacts on the bill, with a net addition that could reach $1.5 billion at Rhode Island Gross. domestic product through support for construction and operation jobs.
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Among the bill’s supporters is the Rhode Island AFL-CIO.
“One of the reasons our members are interested in this is that there are going to be a number of jobs created as we further develop our offshore wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” Patrick Crowley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Labor Group, said during the hearing Thursday evening.
He was one of twelve speakers who testified in favor of the bill during the committee hearing. Nobody spoke against it.
Electric cars and heat pumps will drive demand for renewables
The Rhode Island Renewable Energy Standard was originally adopted in 2004. It requires an annual increase in Rhode Island’s renewable energy supply with a goal of 38.5% by 2035. Because it uses renewable energy certificates to measure supply, sources can be located throughout New England. electrical system and not just in Rhode Island.
While annual increases for renewables are currently set at 1.5%, the bill would require them to rise to 4% this year and 5% next year. They would continue to increase to reach a total of 100% in 2030. The state is currently at 20%.
While reaching 100% is a challenge, staying there will also be difficult. Electricity demand is expected to increase as more electric cars come on the road and Rhode Islanders invest in electric heat pumps. This will result in the further development of renewable energies.
And supporters say it will be a boon to the local economy.
“Right now a lot of our energy dollars are headed out of state,” said Glocester resident Joel Gates. “With our electricity coming from 100% renewable sources, a large portion of those dollars will stay in Rhode Island. Unlike fossil fuels, no one controls the wind faucet or the solar faucet.