Regunberg community net metering proposal included in renewable energy bill passed by Assembly
STATE HOUSE – An expansion of the state’s net metering program to allow community renewable energy projects by more Rhode Island electricity customers, originally proposed by Rep. Aaron Regunberg, passed the General Assembly during the final hours before legislators recessed last week. The legislation has been transmitted to the governor.
On Saturday, the General Assembly approved legislation (2016-H 8354A) sponsored by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) and cosponsored by Representative Regunberg to restore numerous renewable energy provisions that were cut from the state budget bill during the legislative process. Among those provisions was one he proposed earlier this year in a separate bill (2016-H 7585) to expand “community remote net metering” or “shared solar.”
Net metering is a practice that allows those who install renewable energy systems such as solar panels to connect them to the electric grid and receive credit on their bill for the energy they generate. Net metering becomes remote when the renewable energy installation is at a site other than the one receiving the credit.
The bill approved by lawmakers Saturday allows residential and affordable housing customers to participate in remote net metering. Under the initiative, an affordable housing project or three or more residential customers may partner up on a renewable energy generation installation and share the credit for energy it generates. It also enables third-party financing of renewable installations, allowing homeowners and businesses another way to install and finance renewable energy project by entering into a loan or lease arrangement with a company.
The measure is meant to democratize the grid by opening up net metering opportunities to people and entities such as renters or those who don’t have a good site for solar or wind generation on their own property, as well as groups who wish to join their resources and invest in small-scale green community energy installations.
“By expanding net metering to include off-site generation and community solar projects, we can ensure that every family has an opportunity to access the benefits of cheap and stable renewable energy, whether or not their direct premises are suitable for a solar or wind system.
That means a lot more demand for these projects, which means more businesses stepping up to fill that demand, which means more jobs, more clean energy, and lower costs for thousands of Rhode Islanders,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence). “It also means more equity. Off-site net metered systems can be designed to serve multiple customers, providing a way for renters and low-income families to join together on community renewable projects that they could never site or afford on their own. As we transition to a clean energy economy, we can’t leave anyone behind, so it is critical that we open net metering to all Rhode Islanders — not just those who can afford to build a full system individually.”
The measure is consistent with the aims of the state’s most recent State Energy Plan, published in October, which aims to shift Rhode Island away from power produced out of state by carbon-heavy fossil fuels to cleaner, locally produced alternatives, for reasons related to the costs as well as the environment. The energy plan estimates that the status quo could cost Rhode Island between $6.6 billion and $15.4 billion (8 percent to 19 percent) more in fuel costs, compared to alternative energy futures by 2035. The energy plan encourages “ambitious action to improve Rhode Island’s energy security, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability of its energy system,” which it calls “a good investment decision and a powerful economic strategy for generating long-term growth.”
The legislation allows up to 30 MW of virtual net metering statewide through Jan. 1, 2019, although the program could be expanded or changed after that time.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903