Marion Gold is Rhode Island’s second commissioner of energy resources, leading the state’s environmental planning at a critical time when climate change, increasingly intense storms and a sluggish economy have to merge into viable energy policy.
A top priority is updating the state’s energy plan, with input from hundreds of Rhode Islanders, including residents, state agencies, organizations and businesses.
PBN: What do you think are the energy-related challenges in Rhode Island compared to other states?
GOLD: It’s an incredibly exciting time to be working on energy issues because they are so critical for our economy and our environment and the quality of our lives. Rhode Island spent more than $3.6 billion on energy in 2010, so it’s a giant part of our economy. That’s just how much money Rhode Island residents and businesses spent on electricity to keep the lights on, to keep our houses warm and to power our transportation system. How we use those dollars can have a big influence on our economic well-being, as well as our environmental well-being. One of our challenges is to see, given that we are a small state, how many of those billions of dollars we can keep in our state economy. That’s one of our goals.
PBN: How do we know Rhode Island’s energy-efficiency programs are among the best in the country?
GOLD: We know that because we have some of the highest goals for reducing our energy use and we measure and evaluate our success in meeting those goals on a yearly basis. The energy-efficiency program starts with the 2006 energy legislation, the Least Cost Procurement legislation. It says every time we can spend a dollar on energy efficiency and get more value than spending a dollar on fossil fuel-generated energy, it is state policy to do that. As a result of that we have a very specific and very detailed road map of how we are going to achieve those goals.