Energy office set to begin work on new renewable energy goal

January 15, 2020 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s governor has set an aggressive timeline to power the electric grid completely by renewable energy, but it’s an attainable goal, the state’s acting energy commissioner said Wednesday.

Acting Commissioner Nicholas Ucci said his office will spend the rest of this year developing strategies and policies to meet the goal by 2030, and analyzing the economic, environmental and energy system impacts.

“We can balance energy affordability with energy reliability and cut carbon at the same time,” Ucci said. “These things are not mutually exclusive. The governor believes in that and that’s the task to us.”

In her State of the State address to lawmakers Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo announced she will sign an executive order that aims to make the state the first in the nation to be powered completely by renewable energy by the end of the decade. The remark drew a standing ovation.

The state is already positioned to meet more than a third of its electricity demand with renewable energy sources by 2024, Ucci said.

That’s largely due to a new offshore wind farm, Revolution Wind, that Rhode Island plans to purchase power from when it begins operating in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Danish-based Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Eversource are co-owners of the 400-megawatt wind farm. Orsted announced Wednesday that it’s opening a new innovation hub in Providence this spring.

The first U.S. offshore wind farm began operating off Block Island, Rhode Island, in late 2016.

The state’s current energy needs are largely met by natural gas and other fossil fuels, similar to other states in the region, Ucci said. For renewable sources, the state uses mostly offshore and onshore wind and solar.

Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he’s concerned that shifting completely to renewable energy sources would drive up energy costs for residents.

Ucci said the forthcoming analysis will balance affordability, reliability and the need to reduce carbon emissions quickly. His office is hiring a consultant to help with the work.

Raimondo plans to sign the executive order Friday.