The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero to extend the Renewable Energy Growth Program.
The program allows homeowners, businesses and municipalities to install renewable energy systems — solar, wind, small scale hydropower — with financing over a 15- to 20-year period for lower electricity costs. It also allows them to sell their surplus energy to National Grid at a set price over a set period of time (15 to 20 years). The REG program is spawning significant growth in the solar installation sector, and its success warrants expanding past its initial program period, which ends in 2019.
The bill approved today (2017-H 5274A) would extend the program another 10 years to 2029, with targets of enrolling new systems totaling 40 additional megawatts every one of those years. The extension will enable more Rhode Islanders to install renewable energy generation systems — most commonly solar panels — to take advantage of long-term savings and to diversify the state’s energy sources with clean, homegrown renewable energy.
The legislation now goes to the Senate, which has passed identical legislation (2017-S 0112A) sponsored by Sen. William J. Conley Jr. (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).
Representative Ruggiero also sponsored the legislation in 2011 that began the program as a pilot program aimed at small commercial projects, as well as the 2014 bill that extended it and opened it up to residential energy customers.
“The Renewable Energy Growth Program has seen tremendous success since 2014 with 38 large solar installations across the state, allowing businesses, municipalities and over 1,500 homeowners to save on electricity costs. The Green Energy sector, which includes the REG program and energy efficiency, has created over 14,000 jobs in Rhode Island. The REG program is so successful that Oregon, California, Alabama and Massachusetts are looking at this legislation for their states,” said Representative Ruggiero. “Right now, Rhode Island gets 95 percent of its energy from natural gas. The REG program helps the state diversify its renewable energy resources to meet our long-term energy needs, while also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Expanding Rhode Island’s capacity for small-scale distributed generation benefits the state’s economy by reducing the costs of renewables, and by creating jobs through expanding the demand for residential solar generation systems. According to 2016 Rhode Island Clean Energy Jobs Report released by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources and the Executive Office of Commerce, the number of renewable energy jobs in Rhode Island increased by 84 percent between 2015 and 2016, creating 907 new jobs, with the solar workforce accounting for nearly three-quarters of renewable generation employment.
The legislation is cosponsored by House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), Rep. Aaron Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence), Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket).