New report: Rhode Island doesn’t make the cut on solar power

Media Contacts
Channing Jones

Environment Rhode Island

Providence – Today, Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center released Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States, a new report highlighting the solar energy boom across the country. The report outlines the twelve states that have made a considerable contribution to the nation’s rise in solar power. Rhode Island, however, missed the cut and failed to rank among the twelve.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” said Channing Jones, Program Associate with Environment Rhode Island. “The progress of other states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Our message today is clear: If you want your state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, set big goals and get good policies on the books.”

Solar is on the rise across the country. America has more than three times as much solar photovoltaic capacity as it did in 2010, and more than 10 times what it did in 2007. And in 2012, the price of solar panels fell by 26 percent. Environment Rhode Island attributed the solar boom to the leadership of state officials in states profiled in the report.

“More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs,” said Jones. “The sun gives us the resources we need to create jobs and supply our energy right here on our own rooftops, and it’s time for Rhode Island to step up and join the nation’s solar leaders.”

According to the report, it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy for the development of a solar industry.

States profiled in the report include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Vermont.

While these 12 states account for only 28 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 85 percent of the nation’s installed solar energy.

The report highlights the strong policies adopted by the top solar states that encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar.” Most notably:

  • 11 of the 12 have strong net metering policies, which allow customers to offset their electric bills with onsite solar and receive reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity they provide to the grid.
  • 11 of the 12 states have renewable electricity standards, requiring utilities to provide a minimum amount of their power from renewable sources; and nine of them have solar carve outs, which set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean onsite power.
  • 10 of the 12 have strong statewide interconnection policies. Interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
  • The majority of the top solar states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.

In the Rhode Island General Assembly’s 2013 legislative session, a bill enabling PACE financing passed and was signed into law last week by Governor Chafee. However, legislation extending and expanding the state’s distributed generation program was introduced but did not advance to a vote.

“Let’s face it, public policy plays a role in ensuring a robust renewable energy sector in Rhode Island,” said Rep. Deb Ruggiero (House Dist. 74), House sponsor of the distributed generation bill. “These projects create pollution-free energy, jobs, and economic benefit to our communities. The Distributed Generation Program in Rhode Island has been very successful and will reach its 40MW goal by 2014. The expansion of the DG program will continue to place downward pressure on solar rates.”

“More than ninety-seven percent of the power Rhode Island generates comes from burning natural gas, a fossil fuel we import from out-of-state,” concluded Jones. “By setting a bold goal of 10,000 solar rooftops by 2020 and 50,000 by 2030, and adopting strong policies to back up that goal, Rhode Island can follow in the footsteps of the top solar states. In order to achieve this goal, we need the commitment from Governor Chafee and other state leaders to enable policies that will grow solar development in Rhode Island.”