Rhode Island is a unique opportunity for clean energy action. With its small geographic size, dense population, and a single utility serving nearly all of the state’s energy customers, Rhode Island could represent the model for the equitable, clean energy vision central to Acadia Center’s work. Known in history as the birthplace of the American industrial revolution, Rhode Island is poised, once again, to become a center for innovation and the birthplace of a clean energy revolution.
In April 2021, Governor Daniel McKee signed the Act on Climate law, cementing Rhode Island’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030, 80% by 2040, and to net-zero by 2050. The law requires the state to develop climate action plans every 5 years and holds the state accountable through legal enforcement mechanisms. As a result, Rhode Islanders will see benefits from cleaner air, healthier homes, increased investment in the local economy, and a more independent and resilient energy system. Acadia Center will continue to be at the table with state policymakers as they work to develop strategies to reduce the state’s fossil fuel dependency and to advance the clean energy future.
Rhode Island is already a national leader in energy efficiency, thanks in large part to the Energy Efficiency Resources Management Council (EERMC) established through legislation designed and advanced by Acadia Center. Strong energy efficiency policies have already delivered billions of dollars of economic benefits at a fraction of the investment costs. Acadia Center serves on the Energy Efficiency Technical Working Group and is at the center of the efforts to achieve the recently studied maximum potential energy savings and defend against shortsighted efforts to terminate the state’s (Rhode Island) energy efficiency programs.
Acadia Center also plays a leading role in Rhode Island’s efforts to increase the use of local renewable energy resources, like rooftop and large-scale solar, onshore and offshore wind, hydropower, and energy storage. Rhode Island, already home to Block Island Wind Farm, the nation’s first offshore wind facility, is on track to become among the first states to procure all electricity from clean, renewable sources. As a member of the Solar Siting Stakeholder Process that met from 2017-2019, Acadia Center has been a leader in advocating for responsible energy siting policies. As the General Assembly and regulatory agencies develop energy policies to achieve the state’s goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030, Acadia Center will continue to provide cutting-edge data and policy analysis and thought leadership.
Beyond advocacy for expanded clean energy resources, Acadia Center also works through several stakeholder and utility working groups to optimize current and future grid performance, advance non-wires and non-pipeline alternative investment solutions, integrate technologies that enable a customer-centric utility model, and lower the cost of energy for all consumers. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector alone will be insufficient to achieve climate goals that avoid the worst outcomes of the climate crisis. Acadia Center’s work also envisions greater electrification of transportation and building heating—historically dominated by fossil fuel combustion. According to the latest data available, transportation and building heating are the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island.
As a member of the state’s Mobility Innovation Working Group, Acadia Center is leading the charge for the Rhode Island to adopt clean transportation policies including the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), a cap-and-invest program that would apply a nominal carbon price on transportation fuels and reinvest proceeds into clean transportation and mobility strategies like vehicle electrification, transit improvements, and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure. In addition to reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change, the TCI policy would reduce local air pollution, deliver enormous health and safety benefits, create jobs, and stimulate a modern local economy. While the governors of Connecticut and Massachusetts announced in November 2021 that they were pausing their TCI efforts, Acadia Center and our partners remain committed to advancing the goals of the program and building on the 2021 Rhode Island Senate passage of TCI enabling legislation.
Beyond TCI, Acadia Center is working with local partners to advocate for greater investment in clean transportation options like transit and active mobility to give Rhode Islanders better, cleaner, lower cost options to access employment, education, healthcare, and other essential services. As members of the Power Sector Transformation Advisory Group’s Electric Transportation subcommittee, Acadia Center has been working alongside state agencies and Rhode Island’s electric utility to develop statewide strategies guiding equitable and effective electric vehicle charging station deployment.
Acadia Center also advocates for Rhode Island to transition away from fossil fuel use in the buildings sector. Technological advances in heat pumps, water heaters, and induction cooking appliances have made fossil fuel combustion obsolete in buildings. Acadia Center works at the intersection of state legislative and regulatory processes to advance incentives and RI energy efficiency programs that help Rhode Islanders to saving energy & make the switch to clean, safe, all-electric homes.
At the intersection of building heat and power generation, Acadia Center works to transition Rhode Island away from natural gas (also known as fossil gas, or methane). Rhode Island currently gets a significant amount of its electricity and building heating from the combustion of methane imported from outside our region. Methane is also an incredibly potent greenhouse gas that leaks into the atmosphere along its entire journey into and throughout Rhode Island.
The region’s gas transmission and distribution system represent a public safety, health, and climate danger and leaves Rhode Islanders vulnerable to supply disruptions, price shocks, and heating outages—something Aquidneck Island residents experienced firsthand during the low-pressure emergency in January 2019. While fixing the most dangerous gas leaks should be an important state priority, repairs to the entirety of the gas system and a lengthy, if even possible, transition to lower carbon gas fuels will add enormous costs to ratepayers. Those investments should instead prioritize a transition away from gas and other fossil fuels towards electrification that will make our communities safer, healthier, and more energy independent.
In Rhode Island, Acadia Center is currently an organizer, member, partner or supporter of the following groups or coalitions (as well as many other ad hoc collaborative efforts):
- Environment Council of Rhode Island
- The Climate Crisis Campaign
- Climate Jobs RI Coalition
- Providence Streets Coalition
- Act on Climate Implementation Working Group
- Mobility Innovation Working Group
- Energy Efficiency Technical Working Group
- System Reliability Procurement Technical Working Group
- Power Sector Transformation Advisory Group, including the Grid Modernization/Advanced Metering Subcommittee and the Electric Transportation/Energy Storage Subcommittee
- Rhode Island Offshore Wind Power
- Energize RI!
- Northeast Smart Heat Collaborative
- Racial and Environmental Justice Committee of Providence