Finding New Frontiers: Clean Energy on Aquidneck Island
This summer, an Acadia Center blog post highlighted the clean energy moment happening in Connecticut. Policymakers in that state are currently deciding what its energy future will look like for years to come, and stakeholders must take notice—but Connecticut isn’t the only state having a clean energy moment. In fact, you might say the whole region, country, even world is having a clean energy moment. At Acadia Center, we strive to capture a vision that will help more communities, of whatever size, embrace these moments, and recently in Rhode Island we found ourselves in a room with more than one hundred locals excited by that vision.
At Acadia Center’s latest forum, community members came together from Aquidneck Island’s three towns to celebrate achievements, explore possibilities, and identify specific opportunities for using clean energy locally. The audience heard from two state representatives, Lauren Carson and Deborah Ruggiero, and two state commissioners, Marion Gold of the Public Utilities Commission and Carol Grant of the Office of Energy Resources. Attendees had the opportunity to engage with these four women as well as with panelists from National Grid, People’s Power & Light, the City of West Warwick, and the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. Acadia Center’s Rhode Island Director, Abigail Anthony, also presented the basic principles of EnergyVision, with particular emphasis on Community|EnergyVision.
The event was called “Solar and Beyond” and it highlighted the community’s solar potential by featuring sponsors from solar companies, who were available to answer questions before and after the panels (a big thank you to Newport Solar, RGS, and Direct Energy Solar). Other topics that drew interest included Block Island’s new offshore wind farm, transportation’s role in the clean energy future, energy efficiency, and the possibility of going 100% renewable.
Acadia Center was privileged to have two excellent partners in this venture, the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) and Emerald Cities Collaborative. We are excited to continue working with these organizations to harness the momentum built at the forum and support effective policies to make the community’s vision a reality. Working with AIPC and Emerald Cities, Acadia Center is developing a forward-looking policy agenda to remove barriers to community energy and build a coalition of support from municipal leaders on Aquidneck Island. Acadia Center is promoting several key actions that Aquidneck Island leaders can take to advance community energy, including:
- Expand the use of local energy resources to avoid the construction of infrastructure projects and reduce costs. In December, the state’s Energy Efficiency & Resource Management Council will propose reforms to utility planning that are designed to proactively deploy energy efficiency and distributed energy resources, like solar, in “highly-utilized” areas of the electric grid to ensure energy reliability for all.
- Adopt Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs to provide long-term clean energy financing for businesses and residents. Aquidneck Island towns should authorize Commercial PACE, which offers financing for clean energy projects on commercial, industrial, agricultural, non-profit, and multifamily properties. Municipal leaders should also advocate for strong consumer protection elements in the roll-out of Residential PACE in Rhode Island.
- Expand access to community solar. Rhode Island laws passed in 2016 create more opportunities for residential and qualified low- and moderate-income housing developments to benefit from solar projects. However, the Community Remote Net Metering program is currently capped at 30 MW. Aquidneck Island leaders can support advocacy efforts to remove this cap and promote community solar projects.
Over the coming months, Acadia Center will work with AIPC and Emerald Cities to build a strong coalition of support for these policies and others. Together we hope to lay a foundation for community energy in Rhode Island that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and better serve consumers. By seizing this clean energy moment, Aquidneck Island will secure an energy future that is reliable, cost effective, and community driven.