Posted by Alex Kuffner at Providence Journal on February 5, 2018
PROVIDENCE — The state plans to issue a request for proposals later this year for up to 400 megawatts of renewable energy to help meet a goal of 1,000 megawatts by the end of 2020, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced on Monday.
She is directing the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources to work with the state’s utilities to have an RFP ready by the end of the summer, the governor said at a news conference.
The RFP will be open to a variety of sources, including solar, both onshore and offshore wind, and small hydropower, but not to large hydropower from Canada of the sort selected last month by Massachusetts as part of its clean energy goals.
Raimondo said that with 400 miles of coastline, Rhode Island is particularly vulnerable to rising seas and other effects of climate change. The state is committed to meeting its goals under the Paris climate agreement even if the federal government will not, she said.
“We want to do everything we know how to do in order to make Rhode Island sustainable and clean and create jobs in the process,” she said.
In March of last year, Raimondo announced the 1,000-megawatt goal, representing a 10-fold increase in the amount of renewable energy purchased by Rhode Island as compared with a 2016 baseline.
One thousand megawatts of renewable energy is a large number for a small state like Rhode Island, which has only about 2,000 megawatts of in-state electric generation, the bulk of which comes from natural gas-burning power plants.
At the end of 2017, the state had increased its supply of clean energy to 150 megawatts and had another 80 megawatts under contract from both in-state and out-of-state sources, according to the Office of Energy Resources.
A fifth of the current supply is coming from the Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in the nation, which was installed at the end of 2016 by Providence-based Deepwater Wind, and a third is coming from solar arrays, which are becoming more common around the state.
The Union of Concerned Scientists in 2017 ranked Rhode Island fourth in the nation for clean energy momentum.
The trend is evident in the solar industry, said Carol Grant, commissioner of the energy office. In 2014, there were six solar companies authorized to do business in Rhode Island. Now there are 48.
She said the time is right to invest in more renewables as prices in the industry come down.
“There is a window in which using scale and using a competitive process we think we can get great prices for Rhode Islanders,” she said. “There’s often been a sense that you have to choose between clean and affordable. We believe this is a moment when we can do clean and affordable.”