GoLocal.com:Assembly Going Green: Legislators Pushing For Renewable Energy

06/06/2011, Dan McGowan-

State House environmental leaders Senator Susan Sosnowski and Representative Arthur Handy are pushing a slew of bills forward that would force the state to support the development of renewable energy.

In doing so, the General Assembly members argue, the state would be able to manage and promote the installation of grid-connected and distributed-generation renewable energy; energy-generation sources that can stimulate economic development.

An Investment In RI Economy

The goal of the three pieces of legislation are to promote small and mid-sized renewable energy products, address challenges to the net-metering law, encourage self-generation power usage, create more financing options for renewable energy development, and address the current project delays being experienced by developers.

Handy says the bills promote an investment in Rhode Island.

"These changes are an investment in the environment but they are also an investment in the economy and in green jobs," Handy said. "They will create a much greater demand for solar and wind technology, design, manufacturing installation and other trades that will employ Rhode Islanders.”

Limit Net-Metering

One of the bills expected to be voted on before the end of the session would prevent developers from over-sizing their projects, and essentially getting a discount on their energy costs. The bill, Sosnowski and Handy say, would reduce the impact on on the amount paid other energy customers.

The practice the legislators want to cut down on is referred to as net-metering. They hope net-metering will be restricted to only "those projects connected to meters and where the use of the power is located in the same complex as the energy production site."

The Senate sponsor for this bill is Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, and in the House, it is Rep. John M. Carnevale.

Helping Small-Scale Energy Producers

Legislators are also pushing for a bill that would allow small-scale energy producers who do not meet the net-metering standards to enter into 15-year contracts with National Grid at a set price.

The goal of the bill is to help small-scale energy producers rather large power plants. This "distributed generation" would limit the amount of power wasted during transmission because the power would be used near where it is produced.

Set Timelines for National Grid

The final bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Chris Blazejewski and in the Senate by William Walaska, would forced National Grid to commit to completing engineering studies for connecting projects to the grid.

Doing so, the legislators say, would call for developers to accelerate their projects. According to a General Assembly press release, the bill will allow National Grid to dedicate up to two staff members to work on interconnection and engineering studies.

Sosnowski: Too Many Roadblocks

Passing the three pieces of legislation are vital to those who want create their own renewable energy, said Sosnowski, who chairs the Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee. She believes there are too many setbacks for people who want make their homes or businesses more energy efficient.

"There are currently still a lot of roadblocks that stand in the way of people who would like to install their own wind, solar or other renewable-energy generating system at their homes or businesses, and this legislation is aimed at addressing them," Sosnowski said.

Sosnowski said it's time for the General Assembly to make it easier for Rhode Islanders to invest in energy efficiency.

"Our laws must encourage people to invest in technology that makes their home or business more sustainable and self-sufficient, while reducing their impact on the planet," she said.

State Moving Forward On Renewable Energy

Despite most of the focus during the current General Assembly session being on same-sex marriage, pensions and the state budget deficit, it has been a relatively successful session for renewable energy advocates.

In April, the Senate approved the creation of the Renewable Energy Coordinating Board, which is expected to develop and implement a strategic renewable energy plan for the state. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said the board would, "lay the plan for renewable energy that will serve our state in the coming years, that will create in Rhode Island a future that balances job growth with energy costs, and that helps to support a green, environmentally-conscious economy.”

Paiva Weed expressed her commitment to renewable energy.

"The state has a responsibility to effectively implement renewable energy policies and ensure the efficient use of state resources,” she said.