Bill would require RI to get all electricity from renewables by 2030

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Experts say that when it comes to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as required by a landmark climate change measure enacted into law last year, the conversion of Rhode Island’s electric system to a reliance on renewable sources is the logical first step. 

For one, it will be easier to green the electric grid by ramping up the development of offshore wind and solar than it will be to slash emissions caused by heating homes and businesses or by car and truck travel. But it also makes sense, because any solution that covers heating and road vehicle emissions will ultimately rely 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 renewables by 2030.

Just as it did last year with the Act on Climate, which for the first time made emissions reductions mandatory and enforceable in the Ocean State, the Environment Council of Rhode Island, the umbrella group that represents 60 of the state’s environmental groups, has made passage of the update to the Renewable Energy Standard its top priority in this legislative session. 

“We have to think what we will need to decarbonize our transportation 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 drives the economy where we want it to go,” Priscilla De La Cruz, president of the environment council, said at a recent House committee hearing. 

Renewable-energy timeline would be most ambitious in nation

For the second year running, the bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, a Jamestown Democrat, and in the Senate by its president, Dominick Ruggerio. It would codify in state law what former Gov. Gina Raimondo put forward in an executive order two years ago.  

The short timeline is the most aggressive by any state in the nation for a complete adoption of renewable electric supplies, according to the bill’s supporters. 

Those backers include Raimondo’s successor, Gov. Dan McKee, who signed the Act on Climate into law and whose administration says it’s in favor of the legislation. 

“Reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions across the state’s electric, heating, and transportation sectors is integral to climate change mitigation, and is now mandated by law pursuant to the 2021 Act on Climate,” state energy commissioner Nicholas Ucci wrote in a letter to the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. “By accelerating our adoption of renewable electricity using tools inclusive of a robust Renewable Energy Standard, Rhode Island can advance these vitally important goals, while generating new investment and job growth opportunities across the green economy.” 

He pointed to a report completed a year ago by consultants hired by the state, who concluded that it’s possible to reach a 100% renewable goal by the end of this decade. At the time they released their findings in January 2021, they said that Rhode Island would have to procure about 1½ times as much renewable energy as it had to that point.  

The total capacity then of about 900 megawatts has since increased to more than 1,000 megawatts, including about 400 megawatts of solar, the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm, which was the first offshore wind farm in the nation, and the 400-megawatt Revolution Wind project, which has yet to be built in waters off the state’s coast….”

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