Representative Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown)

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero is sponsoring legislation that would substantially increase renewable energy production and supply by requiring that 100 percent of Rhode Island’s electricity by offset by renewable production by 2030.

The bill has a hearing Thursday before the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“The need to address climate change is urgent, and as the Ocean State, we have a lot of skin in the game. Coastal communities like mine have been experiencing the damage from flooding and higher tides for many years,” said Representative Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) in a statement. “We must be a leader in the global effort to reduce the warming of the earth, and increasing production of renewable energy is a critical step. I’m proud to sponsor this bill to move Rhode Island into the sustainable future we urgently need.”

The legislation (2022-H 7277) institutes annual increases the state’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES), the law that requires utility companies to purchase renewable energy certificates representing a certain percentage of the power they sell annually. Those certificates are traded in a regional marketplace.

In 2022, the RES is set at 19% of the retail electricity suppliers sell in Rhode Island, with the percentage set to increase by 1.5 percent annually through 2035.

Representative Ruggiero’s bill increases the targets more aggressively. Under it, the target would increase by an additional 4% in 2022; 5% in 2023; 6% in 2024; 11% in 2025, 2026, and 2027; and 11.5% in 2028, 2029 and 2030 to achieve the goal of 100% of Rhode Island’s electricity demand being offset by renewable energy by 2030.

While the RES does not guarantee that the actual energy used in Rhode Island came from a renewable source, nor does it prohibit any utilities from supplying energy generated by fossil fuel, it does result in the generation of a corresponding amount of renewable energy in the region and encourages construction of renewable projects. In that way, Representative Ruggiero said, it creates jobs and continues to help drive down the cost of renewables, which has fallen drastically in the last decade.   

“With planning and commitments like a stronger Renewable Energy Standard, we can build a thriving green economy that defends against climate change while putting Rhode Islanders to work,” said Representative Ruggiero, who was the sponsor of the legislation that last raised the RES in 2016. “We are making great progress toward this goal of 100 percent with many offshore wind projects in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This doesn’t mean we won’t have any dependence on gas and oil, but this will make us less dependent on fossil fuel and more reliant on renewables, to move us toward a resilient future.”

The legislation was introduced Jan. 20 and is co-sponsored by House Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), Rep. Brandon Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston), Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), Rep. Liana Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) and Rep. Mary Ann Shallcross Smith (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket).