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EC Rhode Island Supports Equitable Clean Energy Policies

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EC Rhode Island Director Brigid Ryan has been busy in recent weeks testifying before committees of the state House of Representatives in support of several measures to advance clean energy, including one that would help low-income and minority communities benefit from net metering.

Net metering allows users of renewable energy – typically rooftop solar installations – to sell electricity generated in excess of their household or institutional needs by back to the electric utility in exchange for credit on their electricity bills.

Under Rhode Island’s current net metering program, Ryan told the Committee on Corporations, residents of low-income and minority communities have trouble taking advantage of net metering due to lack of access to capital to finance solar equipment. But, she went on, the bill under consideration, H-7585, would expand the definition of net metering to allow systems that are more accessible to currently-excluded communities.

On-bill Credits up to 100%; No Surcharges

Under the bill’s definition, net metering means receiving on-bill credit for electricity generated to offset the customer’s consumption and service charges. The credit can be up to 100 percent of the customer’s electricity usage during the billing period and would also include an energy system benefit credit or charge that reflects the net value of the system, including benefits like improved reliability and reduced vulnerability to failures. If the amount of electricity generated by the customer’s installation exceeds the customer’s electricity use for the billing period, the customer would get credit towards future bills.

Importantly, rates applicable to the net-metered account are to be the same as those for other accounts – and no other charges may be imposed to offset net-metering credits. This is in contrast to the surcharges imposed on solar users by utilities in some jurisdictions to avoid reduced revenues.

Ryan also recently spoke before the Committee on Corporations to support H-7514, which would address climate change and resilience by directing the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to consider climate, environmental, employment, health and consumer concerns in all of its proceedings and decisions.

The bill directs utilities, when hiring workers, to take into account:

  • The availability of training programs, including those through registered apprenticeship programs;
  • Employment of Rhode Island workers rather than those from out of state;
  • Long-term career opportunities and industry-standard wages; and
  • Health care and pension benefits.

Such provisions, Ryan told the committee, ensure job growth in the state’s growing clean-energy sector in a way that creates what ECC calls high-road jobs – jobs that come with family-supporting wages and provide pathways out of poverty for those most affected by climate change.

The bill prioritizes energy resource diversification, distributed generation, load management and grid modernization in order to stabilize rates for Rhode Island consumers. It also says Rhode Island should aggressively address climate change in all areas of state action.

Ryan also testified recently in support of the following state legislative proposals:

  • H-7412, the Renewable Energy Standard, which would extend until 2035 the state’s 2004 law requiring that entities selling electricity at retail to Rhode Island end-use customers obtain an increasing percentage from renewable energy resources each year.
  • H-7473, which would extend the Renewable Energy Growth Program for 10 years starting in 2018, with an annual target of 40 megawatts for each additional year.

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