2011-04-21 / News

Ruggiero sponsors bill to decrease energy costs

A bill sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero and Sen. Joshua Miller to decrease Rhode Islanders’ energy costs and carbon emissions by encouraging effi- ciency would also help the local economy by creating green jobs.

The bill would extend an expiration date on the legislation establishing the state’s Renewable Energy Fund and would make a technical change necessary for the implementation of existing law requiring utilities to invest in energy efficiency when it’s less expensive than the energy it would save.

“At a time when the economy is suffering, it’s important that we maintain the programs that we have that are resulting in cleaner energy while reducing costs to consumers and businesses,” said Ruggiero, who serves as chairperson of the Small Business Renewable Energy Task Force. “Investing in renewable energy, which can be produced here in Rhode Island, and in efficiency services, also creates well-paid green jobs in an economy where people really need them.”

The legislation is aimed at fi- nal implementation of the state’s “least cost procurement” law, which was overwhelmingly approved by the General Assembly in 2006 and 2008, and requires natural gas and electric companies serving Rhode Island to make investments in energy effi- ciency programs when their costs would be less than the purchase price of the fuel they would save.

For example, if providing an energy-efficiency retrofit to customers would result in reductions in energy costs for those households that are greater than the cost of the retrofit, the utility is required to provide the retrofit to customers.

While the legislation saves ratepayers money overall, it transfers some costs that would otherwise be paid for as fuel purchases to the energy efficiency charge, which is capped. Miller and Ruggiero’s legislation lifts that cap to make full implementation of the least-cost procurement laws possible.

That implementation would mean new investments in household and business energy effi- ciency in the state, which in turn would put more Rhode Islanders to work performing energy audits, energy-efficiency improvements and in other green jobs.

The bill has the support of National Grid, People’s Power and Light, Conservation Law Foundation as well as The Energy Council of Rhode Island (TEC-RI), a nonprofit coalition of about 60 companies and institutions that are among the major energy consumers in the state, dedicated to lowering the cost of energy in Rhode Island.

“TEC-RI supports energy effi ciency as one of our best energy options in a state with limited indigenous energy resources,” said TEC-RI Executive Director William H. Ferguson. “Our members are aggressive in their efforts to seek out and implement cost-effective energy efficiency projects at their businesses. TECRI applauds the efforts of the bill sponsors for making the technical changes needed to expand these programs for natural gas customers and we look forward to continuing to work with them to improve energy costs and the state’s business climate. Energy effi- ciency projects not only save energy but they provide many jobs to electricians, plumbers, heating contractors, carpenters, insulators and others.”

The legislation also moves the sunset provision on the law establishing the Renewable Energy Fund from 2013 to 2018. The Renewable Energy Fund, administered by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, is dedicated to increasing the role of renewable energy in Rhode Island’s electricity supply.

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