Renewable energy bills become law

6/29/2011,STATE HOUSE – The Assembly has passed and the governor has signed into law three bills designed to facilitate and promote installation of grid-connected and distributed-generation renewable energy; diversify the state’s energy-generation sources and stimulate economic development.

The three new laws will promote small to mid-sized renewable energy projects, within reasonable caps on pricing and quantity; address the legal challenge to the net-metering law by correcting those provisions that violate federal policy (particularly regarding meter connections and right-sized projects); recognize and encourage municipal and small-business efforts to offset their power usage through self-generation; create a continuum of financing options for renewable energy development to ensure that those non-net-metered projects have the opportunity to contract with National Grid for the sale of the energy produced through distributed generation; and address the significant project delays being experienced by developers awaiting interconnection studies from National Grid. The purpose of the legislation is to facilitate and promote installation of grid-connected and distributed-generation renewable energy; diversify the state’s energy-generation sources and stimulate economic development.

“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. Our laws must encourage people to invest in technology that makes their home or business more sustainable and self-sufficient and while reducing their impact on the planet,” said Chairwoman Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).

Said Chairman Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), “These changes are an investment in the environment but they are also an investment in the economy and in green jobs. They will create a much greater demand for solar and wind technology, design, manufacturing installation and other trades that will employ Rhode Islanders.”

The first bill (2011-S 0457A, 2011-H 5939 A) sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and in the House by Rep. John M. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston) limits net-metering (in accordance with federal requirements) to those projects connected to meters and where the use of the power is located in the same complex as the energy production site. Net metering is a system where an electricity customer who owns an energy generating system can connect to the grid and receive retail credit for at least a portion of any excess electricity they generate. This change is meant to prevent developers from over-sizing their projects and then forcing National Grid to purchase their energy product at the retail price, rather than at a negotiated wholesale rate, and would thereby reduce the impact on rates paid by other energy customers.

The legislation exempts municipal projects from that provision, consistent with federal rulings allowing municipal exemption, and limits the net-metered arrangement to offset energy use by the producer. There will be no limit on the number of accounts that can be offset.

Customers who regularly generate more energy than they use will be eligible to participate in the proposed distributed generation long-term contracting program.

The legislation also raises the statewide cap of total net-metering from 2 percent of peak load to 3 percent, removes the tiers of caps on projects and requires any net-metered project to be “right-sized,” and no larger than 5 MW.

The second bill (2011-S 0723 Aaa, 2011-H 6104Aaa), sponsored by Senate Corporations Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), chairwoman of the Small Business Renewable Energy Task Force, which discussed the bills, concerns distributed generation, the small-scale generation of power in locations all over the grid, as opposed to only at large-scale power plants. Distributed generation reduces the waste of power lost during transmission, since the power can be used near where it is produced. The amount of this new generation will be capped to minimize the cost implications on ratepayers.

The legislation does not increase National Grid’s responsibility to purchase renewable energy under long-term contracting standards.

The bill allows small-scale energy producers who do not meet the net-metering standards to enter 15-year contracts with National Grid, using a standard contract and a set price. Larger-scale projects will compete using the standard contract, but using the set price as a ceiling to ensure price competition.

The third bill (2011-S 0721A, 2011-H 6222Aaa) which was sponsored by Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee Vice Chairman William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) and Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence, East Providence), will reduce delays in renewable energy projects by setting timelines for National Grid to complete engineering studies for connecting projects to the grid. Filing fees for interconnection studies and definite timeframes for completion will provide developers with more rapid guidance necessary to facilitate their projects. The bill allows National Grid to dedicate up to two staff members to work on interconnection and engineering studies.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Waterman, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457