Governor’s push for clean energy moves forward on eve of primary election

PROVIDENCE – Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s clean energy plan for Rhode Island is moving forward this week, the state announced on the eve of Wednesday’s primary election.

Under Raimondo’s direction, National Grid Rhode Island will issue a request for proposals for up to 400 megawatts of “clean energy” projects to be reviewed and approved by state officials, according to Tuesday’s announcement.

The request for proposals, or RFP, would help reach the governor’s goal, which she announced last year, to bring 1,000 megawatts of clean energy into Rhode Island’s energy portfolio by 2020.

The announcement comes the day before Wednesday’s primary election in which Raimondo, a centrist Democrat, is expected to face a tight race from the left from fellow Democrat Matt Brown, formerly Rhode Island’s secretary of state.

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The timing of the announcement was coincidental, according to Robert Beadle, spokesman for the state Office of Energy Resources, which developed the RFP with the state Division of Public Utilities & Carriers and National Grid, Rhode Island’s largest utility company.

Raimondo originally announced in February the plan to add 400 megawatts of clean energy in Rhode Island, Beadle said, with the intent to issue the RFP by the end of the summer.

“The timing just worked out that way,” he said about Tuesday’s action on the eve of the primary.

In the announcement, Raimondo said: “I have set an ambitious goal of making Rhode Island’s energy system ten times cleaner in an affordable and reliable manner, and we’re well on our way. Our commitment to combating climate change is as strong as ever.

“Along with the recently announced 400-megawatt Deepwater Wind offshore wind project,” she added, “this administration is working hard to secure new and diverse supplies of cost-effective clean energy for Rhode Island homes and businesses, reduce our carbon footprint, and spur other benefits to our economy.”

Currently, Beadle said, Rhode Island counts about 297 megawatts of clean energy into its energy portfolio, including facilities such as solar panels and wind turbines that are either in operation or are projects in various stages of development.

The 400-megawatt Deepwater Wind project, which will consist of wind turbines off Rhode Island’s coast, is separate from the new RFP, which Beadle said is expected to be issued Wednesday. The deadline for receiving proposals is 12 p.m., Oct. 29.

National Grid will issue the RFP, gather and review the responses, and submit qualified bids to state regulators for approval, Beadle said. The number of clean energy projects submitted to the state will depend on the number of proposals received, as well as the size and scope of the proposals, he said.

Although National Grid is leading the procurement, the Office of Energy Resources and the Division of Public Utilities & Carriers will provide independent oversight, the announcement states.

It also states the RFP allows for potential joint purchases by the Pascoag Utility District and the Block Island Power Company.

The three-member state Public Utilities Commission must review and approve selected projects before any contracts are executed.

Additional information on the RFP will be made available this week at https://RICleanEnergyRFP.com.

Scott Blake is PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@pbn.com.