Ruggiero wants to continue generating green energy
With the support of environmentalists, developers and National Grid, state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero has introduced legislation to expand a program that encourages the development of renewable energy in Rhode Island.
The expansion would lead to more wind turbines and solar arrays, supplying Rhode Island with clean energy and jobs.
“We have an opportunity to jumpstart a strong and robust residential solar industry very quickly in Rhode Island,” said Ruggiero. “This has already happened in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and developers have been clamoring for the opportunity to do the same in our state.”
Ruggiero introduced a pilot program in 2011 that allowed small-scale energy producers to attach to the grid and sell their energy back to the utility company. It was called distributed generation because it involves power that is spread around the grid instead of only at large power plants. Larger-scale projects would compete, using the standard contract, but applying the set price as a ceiling to ensure competition. The program is oversubscribed, with more than 71 applications for the 24 projects awarded. The new legislation extends the program, which is set to expire this year.
“This is a win-win situation where we can reduce our dependence on dirty energy sources, feed increasingly affordable renewable energy into our grid, and build an industry that will employ Rhode Islanders, generate tax revenue and keep dollars here in our own state,” said Ruggiero.
Under the bill, potential developers can enter 15- or 20- year standard agreements with National Grid that gives them a guaranteed income. Another option is to net meter, which would allow developers to get paid a retail rate for energy they generate but don’t use.
The bill benefits ratepayers by encouraging the continuing downward trend in renewable energy prices by using a competitive bidding process for commercial scale projects. Under the pilot program, there was a steady decline in the price of renewable energy, including a 50 percent drop in solar costs.
It benefits Rhode Island’s economy by reducing the costs of renewables, Ruggiero said, and by enabling the growth of a residential solar industry. Under the pilot program, the total solar capacity grew from 1.2 megawatts in 2011 to 21.65 megawatts by the end of 2012. The number of jobs in the state’s solar industry grew from 210 to 360 in that time.
“One of the most important elements of this bill is that it creates local green jobs that cannot be outsourced to people in India or Canada, or even another state,” said Ruggiero. “It will not only help Rhode Island become more self-sufficient and clean in the way we get our energy, but it also puts people to work in an industry that is poised to continue growing.”