Rhode Island has ample reason to increase the amount of renewable energy it uses. Just talk to the 23 projects that recently were on the receiving end of $1.6 million in federal support to restore historic coastal sites damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
But encouraging renewable energy projects is about more than combating the effects of climate change. New England especially finds itself relying more and more on natural gas to generate the electricity it uses. And that reliance makes the region more susceptible to supply shocks, with potential shortages and price spikes looming. In addition, in Rhode Island at least, the renewable energy sector has not been generating as many jobs as have been created in other parts of the country.
The General Assembly did a good job of addressing the issues in the just-concluded session when it updated the state’s “distributed generation” program, with the expected effect being more power generated by renewable sources and sold into the electricity grid and more jobs created. And it did so without adding potentially budget-busting tax breaks that the state can ill afford at the moment (at least when they can be avoided).
By re-establishing the good parts of the expiring pilot program – including the competitive bidding process that drives down the cost of renewable energy sold into the grid – and loosening some of the licensing restrictions on who can perform solar installation work while increasing the amount of renewable energy that should be sold into the system, the legislature has created the conditions for an increase in renewable energy projects and all the good things that they will bring. •