2017-08-17 / News

Gov. inks bills to expand green energy

Ruggiero legislation among new laws


State Rep. Deb Ruggiero at Quonset Business Park last week watching Gov. Gina Raimondo sign legislation into law that will expand green energy. Ruggiero is in the floral dress to the left of Raimondo. 
RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR’S OFFICE State Rep. Deb Ruggiero at Quonset Business Park last week watching Gov. Gina Raimondo sign legislation into law that will expand green energy. Ruggiero is in the floral dress to the left of Raimondo. RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR’S OFFICE With the 2017-18 budget in the rear-view, Gov. Gina Raimondo is back to business, signing five bills expected to expand green energy in Rhode Island.

According to Raimondo, these measures are important steps to fostering a stronger, greener economy. “We have made so much progress toward our goals,” she said.

Among the bills signed into law Aug. 9 was legislation sponsored by Rep. Deb Ruggiero, the Democratic House member serving Jamestown and Middletown.

“The program is so successful that Oregon, California, Alabama and Massachusetts are looking at this legislation,” she said.

The so-called Renewable Energy Growth Program allows homeowners, businesses and municipalities to finance renewable energy systems for 15- to 20-year periods. The bill extends the law, which was launched to commercial ventures in 2011, another decade until 2029.

According to Ruggiero, the program has been a “tremendous success” since its expansion to residential customers in 2014. There have been 38 noteworthy solar installations, saving more than 1,500 homeowners on their electricity costs.

“I never imagined it would be this successful,” she said.

Ruggiero hopes to enroll enough systems to produce 40 additional megawatts annually through 2029. The law allows Rhode Islanders to sell their surplus renewable energy (hydro, solar and wind) to the utility company at a set price during the course of their contracts.

“It will cause National Grid to lock into predictable electricity prices for decades, keeping electricity costs down,” she said.

Ruggiero said the green energy sector is responsible for more than 15,000 jobs in the Ocean State. According to a report released by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, the number of those jobs related to renewable energy increased by 84 percent between 2015 and 2016, with the solar work force accounting for nearly three-quarters of the 907 new jobs.

The other bills signed into law will: n Require a statewide application process for solar permits. n Prohibit electricity distributors from charging fees that are not directly related to the interconnection of renewable systems. n Allow farmers to install renewable energy systems on 20 percent of their land without being taxed for changing their land use. n Expand virtual net-metering to schools and nonprofits.

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