Rhode Island Sets Fastest Timeline of Any US State to Achieve 100% Renewable Electricity

Rhode Island has passed a law requiring all electricity in the state to be offset by renewables by 2033 – the fastest timeline of any US state.

July 1 update: Governor Daniel McKee (D-RI) has now signed into law landmark legislation that will require all electricity in the state to be offset by renewable energy by 2033. It is the most renewable energy standard aggressive among all US states.

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) said:

This bill supports the growth of renewable energy and is consistent with the Climate Act goal of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. In addition to reducing emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels that must be brought to Rhode Island from other places, creating renewable energy supports green industry, creating thousands of well-paying jobs right here in Rhode Island. We have seen a 74% increase in green jobs since 2014, and this trend will continue as we strengthen our commitment to renewable energy.

How Rhode Island Will Meet Its Renewable Energy Goal by 2033

H277/S2274 systematizes (and slightly delays) an executive order issued in January 2020 by then-Governor Gina Raimondo (now U.S. Secretary of Commerce) that committed Rhode Island to meeting its electricity needs with an electric 100% renewable by 2030.

Rhode Island will offset its fossil fuel-based electricity as it moves toward establishing its own renewable energy sources. It currently relies heavily on natural gas: in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas powered 89% of the state’s net electricity generation, the largest share of all states. Additionally, about 3 in 10 Rhode Island households use fuel oil as their primary source of home heating, six times the US average. The new legislation encourages the construction of new renewable energy projects.

Rhode Island utilities will purchase renewable energy certificates in a regional marketplace called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort among 11 states to reduce emissions. This means that RGGI’s renewable electricity providers will produce renewable energy equivalent to 100% of the energy produced by Rhode Island’s utilities.

Johanna Neumann, Senior Campaign Director for 100% Renewable Energy for America’s Environment, said of the approved legislation:

Rhode Island is poised to top the list of states leading us to a future powered by clean energy.

This forward-looking commitment marks another milestone in America’s clean energy journey.

Renewable Growth Plans

Rhode Island’s solar outlook is not bright. It is currently ranked 31st in the United States for solar power by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), with 575 MW installed. As a result, 9% of the state’s electricity is currently powered by solar energy. It is also expected to drop 10 places in the SEIA ranking of states to 41st over the next five years, with a growth projection of 443 MW.

However, the state is striving to significantly develop large-scale offshore wind power.

Rhode Island, home to Block Island (pictured), the first offshore wind farm in the United States, plans to acquire 600 megawatts (MW) of new offshore wind capacity, which is equivalent to powering around 340,000 homes a year. In July 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 484,902 dwellings in the state.

The Governor’s website noted:

Including the 30 MW Block Island wind farm and the planned 400 MW Revolution Wind project, offshore wind would cover 50% of the state’s projected energy needs.

On June 23, McKee joined a coalition of governors from 11 East Coast states and the Biden administration to launch a Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership, which will accelerate state offshore wind industries.

The Rhode Island government website explains how the partnership will work:

[It] facilitate state and federal cooperation in building a strong U.S.-based offshore wind supply chain, building a skilled workforce for the industry, and addressing important regional issues such as transmission, fishing and other ocean use issues.

The partnership will also commit to collaborating on supply chain strengthening, advancing the National Offshore Wind Supply Chain Roadmap, and prioritizing offshore wind vessel financing.

Rhode Island, with a population of just under 1.1 million, consumes less energy per capita than any other state. Its emissions are also the second lowest among states, after Vermont.

Read more: America’s first offshore wind farm had no negative effects on fish, groundbreaking study finds

Photo: ‘Block Island Wind Farm’ by cementley is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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