Rhode Island sets fastest state goal of 100% renewable energy by 2033

In June, the Rhode Island House and Senate passed legislation, expected to be signed into law by Gov. Daniel McKee (D-RI), mandating that all of the state’s electricity must be offset by renewable energy by 2033 — the fastest timeline of all States in the US.

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 US Secretary of Commerce) that requires Rhode Island to meet 100% of its electricity needs with renewable electricity by 2030.

Rhode Island will offset its fossil-fueled electricity as it moves toward building its own renewable energy sources. It is currently heavily dependent on natural gas: According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), 89% of the state’s net electricity generation was fueled by natural gas in 2020, the largest share of any state. Additionally, approximately 3 in 10 Rhode Island households use heating oil as their primary source of heating for their home, which is six times the US average. The new legislation encourages the construction of new renewable energy projects.

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

Johanna Neumann, senior director of the Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy for Environment America, said of the passed legislation:

Rhode Island is poised to jump at the forefront of the ranks of states that are leading us into a clean energy future.

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

Renewable growth plans

Rhode Island’s sunshine prospects are not rosy. With an installed capacity of 575 MW, it is currently ranked 31st in the US for solar energy by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Currently, 9% of the state’s electricity is supplied by solar energy. It is also expected to drop 10 places in the SEIA rankings to 41st place over the next five years with a growth forecast of 443MW.

However, the state is working to significantly expand offshore wind energy on a large scale.

Rhode Island, home of Block Island (pictured), the US’s first offshore wind farm, has plans to procure 600 megawatts (MW) of new offshore wind capacity – equivalent to powering around 340,000 homes annually. As of July 2021, there were 484,902 housing units in the state, according to the US Census Bureau.

The governor’s website states:

Including the 30MW Block Island wind farm and the proposed 400MW Revolution wind project, offshore wind would provide 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 establish a state-to-state offshore wind implementation partnership that will accelerate the states offshore wind industry.

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

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

The partnership will also commit to working together to strengthen the supply chain, advance the national offshore wind supply chain roadmap and prioritize funding for offshore wind vessels.

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

Continue reading: First US offshore wind farm has zero negative impact on fish, groundbreaking study finds

Photo: Cementley’s Block Island Wind Farm is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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