Rhode Island Issues Blueprint for Developing Modern, Consumer-Friendly Grid

PROVIDENCE—Acadia Center applauds the state of Rhode Island for its blueprint to create a modern electric grid that is cleaner, more efficient and more reliable. The Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, the Office of Energy Resources, and the Public Utilities Commission initiated the Power Sector Transformation Initiative in March 2017 at the direction of Governor Gina Raimondo.

“New clean energy technologies at lower costs offer an historic opportunity to build a modern, more equitable energy system that benefits consumers, reduces pollution and improves economic productivity,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “To achieve that future, states need to reform outdated rules that govern the energy system. With the release of the Power Sector Transformation Phase One report, Rhode Island is embracing that future and has taken a leadership position regionally and nationally.”

The Power Transformation Initiative’s goals are to control long-term electric system costs, to give customers more energy choices, and to build a flexible grid that incorporates more clean energy resources. The agencies jointly released the Rhode Island Power Sector Transformation Phase One report, with accompanying recommendations, earlier this month. Today, National Grid will file a new rate case at the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission, which is the first opportunity to implement these proposed reforms.

“The Power Sector Transformation Initiative has laid out an ambitious path forward to benefit Rhode Island residents, businesses, communities and the environment,” said Erika Niedowski, policy advocate in Acadia Center’s Providence office. “Acadia Center would like to thank the agencies for running a thorough stakeholder process, which has led to a thoughtful and innovative set of recommendations. Acadia Center also looks forward to reviewing National Grid’s soon-to-be filed rate case proposal for its consistency with the recommendations from Power Sector Transformation.”

Acadia Center, which participated extensively in the Power Sector Transformation’s seven-month public stakeholder process, has long advocated for states to embrace these reforms through materials such as UtilityVision and supports the key reforms recommended in the report:

  • Reforming the utility business model with less emphasis on capital investments and more emphasis on achieving key goals for system efficiency, integration of distributed energy resources, and customer engagement and network support services.
  • Developing new revenue streams from third parties to improve services for Rhode Island residents and lower ratepayer costs.
  • Investing in the intelligence and flexibility of the electric grid.
  • Improving distribution system planning to lower costs, efficiently integrate distributed energy resources, and provide more information and better incentives to customers.

“Rhode Island is poised to be the first state in New England to implement serious reforms to the utility business model,” said Amy Boyd, senior attorney at Acadia Center. “This is a key step to incentivizing utilities to act in the public interest, instead of merely advancing their own bottom line.”

“Acadia Center looks forward to the implementation phase of the Power Sector Transformation Initiative and finding the best path forward on cutting edge issues,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney at Acadia Center. “Rhode Island should work with New York and Massachusetts to lower the cost to Rhode Island ratepayers of back office investments that can be shared across jurisdictions and define a reasonable role for the utility to advance electric vehicle charging.”

See the report at: http://www.ripuc.org/utilityinfo/electric/PST%20Report_Nov_8.pdf

Media Contacts:
Erika Niedowski, Policy Advocate, Rhode Island Office
eniedowski@acadiacenter.org, 401-276-0600

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617-742-0054 x107

Community|EnergyVision Action Guide Webinar Series

The Community|EnergyVision Action Guide is a new tool for communities seeking local clean energy options. It promotes greater alignment between state rules and actions that communities may take to advance clean energy at the local level. The Action Guide is customized for seven states: Connecticut,Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

In upcoming webinars, learn more about how the different sections of the Community|EnergyVision Action Guide come together to give residents a picture of clean energy options in their community and opportunities to break down barriers to further action.

Visit the links below to register for webinars with Acadia Center staff in each state.

New Hampshire and Vermont
Tuesday, November 28
11am (EST)

Rhode Island
Thursday, November 30
2pm (EST)

Tuesday, December 5
11am (EST)

Thursday, December 7
3pm (EST)

New York
Tuesday, December 12
2pm (EST)

Thursday, December 14
2pm (EST)

Action Guide Identifies Barriers to Community Energy—Resilient Microgrids Could Have Helped Maine Bounce Back from Storm Damage

Of the many economic, energy, and environmental benefits of a clean, modernized community energy system, one might stand out for electric customers across the Northeast right now: resiliency.

More than 1.5 million homes lost power when hurricane-force winds and torrential rain battered New England in late October. In Maine, toppled trees blocked roads, damaged homes and cars, and pulled down power lines, contributing to outages that left nearly two-thirds of the state without power. The emergency response was hardly a picture of resilience: despite the efforts of more than 3,000 state agency and utility workers from 14 states and three Canadian provinces, it took more than a week to restore service statewide.

Neighbors rallied to keep each other warm and fed, but updating the way we plan, manage, and invest in our electric grid would give communities the freedom to do even more. Acadia Center’s Community|EnergyVision Action Guide highlights how communities can create more resilient energy systems by leveraging available technologies to generate, distribute, and use power in a cleaner, more consumer-friendly way. The Action Guide also reveals where current state rules limit—and even prohibit—community action.

New England’s recent and historic wind storm is a stark reminder that obstacles to community energy leave residents vulnerable. Power outages are inconvenient, dangerous, and expensive—and so are the workarounds many municipalities, businesses, and residents turn to during lingering blackouts.

Communities need better, more resilient energy systems, and they deserve the freedom to access and control clean, affordable, local energy. Microgrids are a key component of this clean energy future. These self-contained power systems can combine distributed renewable generation resources with demand optimization and energy storage to serve their immediate geographical area. Microgrids can operate as part of the main electrical grid or go into “island” mode to operate separately from the grid during power outages.

Microgrids improve resiliency because they provide electrical service to a concentrated area and their generation and storage sources can be distributed across that area—with multiple rooftop solar installations, for example. This compact, yet decentralized, approach makes microgrids more rugged overall, reducing their vulnerability to the service disruptions that go along with long-distance transmission and distribution lines.

Microgrids became a focus of many state resiliency plans after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and those on-line in Texas helped keep stores and hospitals open during Hurricane Harvey. Even in good weather, microgrids add value to a community. Vermont’s Stafford Hill solar and storage microgrid not only powers Rutland’s emergency shelter, it yields $380,000-$700,000 annually in energy storage benefits and land-lease fees.

Maine communities are ripe for microgrids, yet there is no clear authority for municipalities to act. Acadia Center’s Community|EnergyVision Action Guide notes that communities would have a clearer path if policymakers established specific rules enabling developers and stakeholders to collaborate on microgrids that enable local clean energy generation, use distributed energy storage, and improve control over energy consumption; add resilient capacity and stability to the larger grid; and operate independently at critical times.

When legislators return to Augusta in January, they will consider An Act to Enable Municipalities Working with Utilities to Establish Microgrids (LD 257). There was an informational meeting on the bill last month—just days before the majority of Mainers lost power—and there will be public hearings and work sessions in early 2018. Please join Acadia Center in sharing the impact of an outdated, inflexible power grid and demanding expanded community energy options to enhance resiliency.

Your car is a big environmental nemesis, and Mass. is stepping in

“We spend over $11 billion a year on gasoline, and all of that money leaves the region,” said Jordan Stutt, a policy analyst at the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group in Boston. “If we move away from gas toward electricity, we can keep more of that money here and move the transportation system forward.”

Read the full story from the Boston Globe here.

New Regional Initiative — RGGI for Transportation Sector

“Working together across state and party lines, states can improve their transportation systems, reduce pollution, and improve mobility and transportation choice for consumers,’’ said Daniel Sosland, president of the Acadia Center, a nonprofit working for clean energy.

Read the full article from NJ Spotlight here.