Rhode Island gives renewable energy a boost: new laws open doors for developers of all sizes.BACKGROUND
In 2009, in an effort to encourage renewable energy development in Rhode Island, CLF staff attorney, Jerry Elmer, wrote a precedent-setting law called the Long Term Contracting Statute (LTC Statute). The law required all Rhode Island utilities to obtain fully 24% of the state's electricity from long-term contracts from new renewable energy sources.
The LTC Statute worked well for developers of large renewable energy projects, but not for those who wanted to build small distributed generation (DG) projects, like a homeowner who wanted to put solar panels on her roof, or a town that wanted to put up a single wind turbine at its high school. The process was too cumbersome and complicated.
CLF IN ACTION
Working with a number of stakeholders, CLF drafted a suite of three new laws to make it easier for smaller developers to launch renewable energy projects in Rhode Island. The centerpiece of the new laws, a Distributed Generation Statute, provides a simple, short, standard contract - and a standard, uniform price - for developers of small renewable projects. A second law, governing net metering, allows small projects to get funded by selling power back to the utility. A third law sets a standard timetable and standard fees for connecting small renewable projects to the electricity grid.
The three new laws all passed the Rhode Island General Assembly in the spring of 2011 - two of them unanimously - and Governor Chafee held a ceremonial bill signing over the summer. The ceremony was conducted at the site of a long-stalled wind project at a low-income housing facility that will soon be up and running as a direct result of the new laws. Thanks to CLF's involvement, Rhode Island now has one of the most extensive and coherent sets of renewable energy laws in the nation.
The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC] has just begun opening cases filed under the state's new renewable energy laws and developer interest is high. CLF attorneys plan to participate in each case to offer their unique insight to the PUC on proper implementation of the Laws. The new laws could have impact far beyond Rhode Island. Since their enactment, renewable energy advocates from New York to California have sought CLF's advice on how to replicate the Rhode Island model in their own states.
"To get renewable energy up and running in Rhode Island, we needed a simple, standardized process that would remove the barriers to entry for all developers. The renewable energy laws now in place will encourage a diverse set of players and clean energy sources that will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help meet our climate goals."
--Jerry Elmer, Staff Attorney, CLF Rhode Island
LONG-TERM CONTRACT (LTC) An agreement between a developer and utility stating how much of a project's power a utility will purchase, over what time period and at what price. LTCs are crucial to developers for obtaining financing for renewable energy projects.
NET METERING / An energy compensation system that allows even the smallest renewable energy facilities to be economically viable: energy producers don't get charged for what they produce and they get to sell their excess power back to the utility.
Photo credit: Leslie Boudreau
RELATED ARTICLE: WHERE CLF STANDS
CLF is tackling the reality of Climate change by working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island and across New England, Influencing state policy to make it easier for renewabtes to come online is one important way that CLF hopes to build a dean energy future that benefits our region's peopte, economy and environment,