Governor Donald L. Carcieri recently submitted legislation (Senate bill 943) to the General Assembly to create a Rhode Island Power Authority, which would spearhead the development of renewable energy sources and ensure that Rhode Islanders are the primary beneficiaries of the electricity those sources produce.
Senate Republican leader Dennis Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown) is the lead sponsor of the bill on the Governorâ€™s behalf. The Senate Committee on Corporations is scheduled to hold a hearing on the legislation Thursday at approximately 4:30 p.m.
The bill represents another step forward in the Governorâ€™s efforts to achieve the goal of generating 15 percent or more of Rhode Islandâ€™s electricity needs from renewable energy sources. The Governor had previously enunciated the need for a Power Authority in his State of the State address January.
The Rhode Island Power Authority (RIPA) would be a quasi-governmental agency with the authority to borrow and conduct other independent financial transactions, much like the Economic Development Corporation. Under the Governorâ€™s proposal, RIPA would be responsible for authorizing and helping to finance the development of renewable energy sources, such as wind power and hydroelectric projects. The new agency would also be authorized to trade the electricity generated by these projects in order to ensure that it is made available to Rhode Island consumers.
â€œOver the last year and a half, my administration has worked hard to make Rhode Island a leader in the development of renewable sources of energy,â€ Governor Carcieri said. â€œThe creation of a Rhode Island Power Authority would represent a critical step in that process.â€
â€œLast year, I set an ambitious goal of generating at least 15 percent of Rhode Islandâ€™s electricity needs from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power,â€ Carcieri continued. â€œI believe it is critical that we decrease Rhode Islandâ€™s reliance on foreign sources of fossil fuels. The high cost of foreign oil hurts Rhode Island families and businesses, while polluting our environment.â€
â€œLast week, we learned that we can actually achieve five times this goal through wind power alone,â€ Carcieri said. â€œIn addition to the development of wind turbines, the Office of Energy Resources is also working on several exciting hydroelectric and wave power projects that could further wean Rhode Island off our dependence on oil and gas.â€
â€œBut determining what is technically feasible is just the first step,â€ Carcieri continued. â€œWe must also find a way to organize, authorize and, in some cases, help finance the development of these projects. We must also ensure that the electricity that is generated is not simply fed back onto the electricity grid, where its benefit to Rhode Islanders will be diluted. Rhode Islanders should enjoy the full benefits of the renewable energy projects Rhode Island creates. A Rhode Island Power Authority will help us achieve both these objectives.â€
â€œIn particular, a Rhode Island Power Authority would be responsible for evaluating, authorizing and helping to finance wind, wave and hydroelectric projects in the state,â€ Carcieri said. â€œIt would also have the authority to trade the electricity that is generated, so that Rhode Islanders can take full advantage of these projects.â€
One has to wonder if this is code word for “lets supply New York City and Boston with renewable energy and make a fortune for our small state.” While there is nothing wrong with offsetting large amounts of pollution in New York (and making a lot of money at the same time) Rhode Island citizens would certainly “take full advantage” of these projects even if the power was “fed back onto the electricity grid.” Electrons go to the first place they are needed, if the wind farms are in Rhode Island and the cables are in Rhode Island, the power will be used in Rhode Island.
Under the legislation submitted by Governor Carcieri, the Rhode Island Power Authority would be a public corporation created to develop renewable energy resources, to develop specific energy projects and to trade the power generated from those projects for the benefit of Rhode Islanders.
RIPA would be controlled by a board of directors, to be chaired by the Commissioner of the Office of Energy Resources, and composed of an additional four members appointed by the Governor, with Senate advice and consent. The new agency would be managed by an executive director, also appointed by the Governor. RIPA would have the authority to issue bonds to finance its operations.
â€œRhode Island has been moving to the forefront on renewable energy issues over the past several years,â€ commented Andrew Dzykewicz, Commissioner of the Office of Energy resources. â€œA Rhode Island Power Authority is the tool we need to make these projects a reality, and move our state closer to energy independence.â€
The Governorâ€™s Power Authority legislation was also sponsored by Senate President Joseph Montalbano, Senator William Walaska, Senator Susan Sosnowski, and Senator David Bates.