Rhode Island may be our Nation’s smallest state, but its green energy prospects are anything but. The Ocean State aims to reach 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, creating thousands of jobs and leveraging the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed Executive Order 20-01 last January which underscored this ambitious, “first-in-the-nation” goal. As part of the order, The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) was directed to “conduct economic and energy market analysis and develop viable policy and programmatic pathways” for reaching the target.
In accordance with the order, OER and Brattle Group – a Boston-based consulting firm – recently released “The Road to 100 Percent Renewable Electricity by 2030 in Rhode Island.”
The document considers the feasibility, scalability, and costs of existing technological innovations in clean energy. It also accounts for generation patterns, market value, local economic and employment impacts, and potential obstacles.
Additionally, the study “identifies ways to leverage competition and market information to ensure reasonable ratepayer costs and manage energy price volatility, while taking advantage of economic development opportunities within the state.”
The second objective is to “consider specific policy, programmatic, planning, and equity-based actions that will support achieving the 100 percent renewable electricity goal,” the report notes. The study centers around three principles which include decarbonization, economics, and policy implementation.
According to the report, Rhode Island will reach 40 percent renewable energy assuming that the proposed Revolution Wind offshore project gains federal approval. The authorization of the project puts the state at about 3,060 GWh of renewable energy generation by 2030 out of Rhode Island’s forecasted total 2030 electricity demand of 7,700 GWh.
Where does the rest of the green energy come from? Rhode Island announced in October that it would pursue a competitive solicitation for as much as 600 MW of new offshore wind resources. If approved, this would bring the state to around 80 percent renewable energy.
An additional 1,500 GWh could come from existing retail solar programs, leaving a 400 GWh gap that could be closed through new or expanded clean energy programs or the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs).
Transitioning to renewables could result in a short-term monthly residential bill increase of between $11 and $14 with utility-scale renewables, however, in-state development of these resources could create thousands of clean energy jobs and boost GDP – a good tradeoff.
“Rhode Island is a national clean energy leader with viable pathways to become the first 100 percent renewable state and dramatically reduce electric-sector GHG emissions,” said State Energy Commissioner Nicholas S. Ucci in a press release. “As home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm and nationally-recognized, cost-effective energy efficiency programs, the Ocean State has proven that decarbonization can spur environmental and public health benefits while driving local economic investment and jobs.”
The report also calls for the state’s existing Renewable Energy Standard (RES) to be revised to match Raimondo’s green energy order. The current standard was set in 2004 and targets a green energy goal of 38.5 percent by 2035.
Why is updating the RES important? Because “RES compliance at present does not require the physical procurement of power produced by renewable energy facilities,” according to PV magazine. “Instead, electricity providers meet their requirements by purchasing RECs.”
Additionally, the document urges an extension of Rhode Island’s energy efficiency programs to run through 2030, as they are currently set to last through 2023. Ensuring equity in the transition process is another priority discussed. The report emphasizes the importance of considering the views of frontline communities during the transition to clean energy, and ensuring underserved communities are assisted by experts in their decision-making. This transition to renewable energy aligns closely with strategies developed at the national level in the United States. Following the passage of the congressional COVID relief bill in December, federal spending was authorized for research and development of renewable energies extending to solar, wind, hydro, geothermal energies, and federal credits were also authorized to go towards renewable construction projects as well.