Rhode Island is on its way to become the first U.S. state to completely offset its electricity generation with renewables with a new legislative package that targets a fast track to net-zero by 2033.

Rhode Island

A majority of Rhode Island’s electricity currently comes from natural gas, but comprehensive legislation heading to Gov. Daniel McKee’s desk seeks to incentivize an accelerated change. House Bill 277/Senate Bill 2274 doesn’t bar the state’s utilities from using fossil fuels. Instead, it requires utilities to progressively procure more renewable electricity capacity.

The state’s Renewable Energy Standard currently requires utilities to purchase renewable energy certificates (REC) for 19% of their yearly electricity sales and increase those purchases by 1.5% per year. The new package passed earlier in June accelerates that path to 100% renewable offsets within the decade.

“In addition to reducing emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels that must be brought to Rhode Island from other places, creating renewable energy supports the green industry, creating thousands of good paying jobs right here in Rhode Island,” Democratic State Rep. Deborah Ruggiero, an author of the House legislation, said.

Under the legislation, Rhode Island’s energy transition plans would jump ahead of the New York and Connecticut plans to require 100% renewable electricity by 2040. Oregon also has legislation to require carbon neutrality by 2040, and California could have full renewable-generated electricity by 2045.

Utilities operating in the state would buy RECs from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) marketplace. RGGI was created as a regional effort with 11 states as a trading hub for renewable resources and investments.

While the smallest state in the country consumes less energy per capita than any other, its share of electricity generated from natural gas is the highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The state consumed 101 trillion Btu of natural gas in 2020, the latest full-year data available from EIA. Almost 90% of the net generation is natural gas.

Residents in Rhode Island also are more than six times as likely as the average American to heat their homes with some kind of heating oil, EIA reported. Around three out of 10 homes in the state use heating oil.

In 2017, the state became home to the first U.S. offshore wind farm near Block Island. Rhode Island’s wind-powered electricity generation has multiplied 23 times between 2015 and 2020. The state now has at least 41 MW of generating capacity from about a dozen onshore wind farms.

[Shale Daily: Including impactful news and transparent pricing for shale and unconventional plays across the U.S. and Canada, Shale Daily offers a clear snapshot of natural gas supplies for analysts, investors and global LNG buyers. Learn more.]

The state’s legislators also moved to expand its procurement of offshore wind energy in separate legislation passed at the end of June. The bill could require the state’s primary utility, Rhode Island Energy, to procure 600-1,000 MWh of offshore wind energy. The company could receive up to 1% of the contract amount as an incentive.

The combined utility, which serves around 770,000 customers across Rhode Island, is a subsidiary of PPL Corp. The Allentown, PA, based energy company bought the company, previously known as Narragansett Electric Co., from National Grid plc in 2020.

“We see 100% renewable generation as a critical component in helping Rhode Island meet its clean energy goals outlined in the Act on Climate, which is why we supported this legislation,” RI Energy spokesperson Ted Kresse told NGI. “We look forward to helping ensure that all electricity used in Rhode Island is offset by renewable sources by 2033, which is among the most aggressive targets in the nation.”