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6/25/2021 House OKs Potter bill to allow more community renewable energy creation
Expansion includes set-aside for low- and moderate-income households, limits on development on undisturbed land
STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Brandon C. Potter expanding opportunities for community renewable energy production in Rhode Island, and ensuring that at least 35 percent of the new capacity is allocated to low- and moderate-income participants.

“Rhode Island has made a commitment to reducing our climate emissions to net-zero by 2050, and we need to work on every available front to reach that goal. Expanding opportunities for community net metering is a way to encourage more renewable energy development while also making the financial benefits of it available to more people. I’m particularly proud that this bill ensures that low- and moderate-income Rhode Islanders are included, because the economy of our future needs to be both green and inclusive. This is an effort to help ensure that the transition to clean energy is a just transition,” said Representative Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston).

“Community net metering” refers to when a group of residential customers partner up on a renewable energy generation installation and share the credit on their own electric bills for the energy it generates. It provides renewable energy opportunities to renters and those who don’t have a good site for solar or wind generation on their own property, as well as for groups who wish to pool their resources and invest in small-scale green community energy installations.

Lawmakers established community net metering in Rhode Island in 2016, initially making a total of 30 MW available. Those 30 MW have all been accounted for now, and this legislation (2021-H 5327A) would make another 30 MW immediately available.

The bill also requires that at least 35 percent of the bill credits or 35 percent of the project capacity be reserved for low- or moderate-income households. That provision would ensure that people who aren’t financially advantaged are able to participate in green energy production and save money on their electric bills.

Additionally, the legislation includes a provision that allows regulators to limit up to half of new installations approved under the expansion to previously disturbed sites like landfills, rooftops, brownfields and industrial or municipal buildings, rather than forested or open areas.

The legislation is supported by the George Wiley Center, the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy, among others.

Rhode Island has much lower limits on community net metering program than its neighboring states. Connecticut has made 175 MW available; Massachusetts, 1,500 MW; and New York, 2,000 MW. Maine allows community net metering without any limit.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) is sponsoring companion legislation (2021-S 472).

The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski (D-Dist. 17, Cranston), Rep. Leonela Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket), Rep. José F. Batista (D-Dist. 12, Providence), Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. Rebecca Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence), Rep. Mary Ann Shallcross Smith (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923