Both the House and the Senate approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Aaron Regunberg to significantly increase local renewable energy generation in Rhode Island by expanding the state’s remote net metering program to allow nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, hospitals and houses of worship to participate.
Net metering is a mechanism for owners of renewable energy systems to receive credit for the energy they feed into the electric grid, and remote net metering allows for the renewable energy installation to be at a site other than the one receiving the credit.
“Legislation like this is critical to reaching our economic, energy and climate goals,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence). “Expanding remote net metering means more organizations and families can save on their electric bills and more Rhode Islanders can get good-paying jobs installing renewable energy systems. It also is critical to our energy security and climate change efforts. When we reduce our reliance on out-of-state fossil fuels by generating more of our own pollution-free energy right here in Rhode Island, we keep our energy dollars in-state and reduce our emissions. If we can give schools, churches, hospitals and other nonprofits the means to make these win-win-win investments, we should!”
Until last year, state law allowed only municipalities to participate in remote net metering. In 2016, lawmakers opened up the program to “community remote net metering” — affordable housing developments or groups of three or more residential customers that install renewable energy projects such as solar panels and share the credit for the energy they generate.
Under the bill (2017-H 5618Aaa), nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, hospitals and houses of worship would also be allowed to take advantage of remote net metering.
The measure is meant to encourage organizations in Rhode Island to invest in the development of renewable energy installations and open up access to renewables to institutions whose facilities may not be in the best location for wind or solar themselves. These investments allow organizations to reduce their energy costs while helping Rhode Island meet its goals of generating more of its own clean energy and using less power from fossil fuel produced out-of-state.
The measure is consistent with the aims of the state’s most recent State Energy Plan, which aims to shift Rhode Island away from power produced out of state by carbon-heavy fossil fuels to cleaner, locally produced alternatives, for reasons related to the costs as well as the environment. The energy plan estimates that the status quo could cost Rhode Island between $6.6 billion and $15.4 billion (8 percent to 19 percent) more in fuel costs, compared to alternative energy futures by 2035.
It also will fuel job growth and expand the green economy in Rhode Island by encouraging more construction of renewable energy installations.