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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pushing for green jobs

Senate votes to strengthen tie between renewable energy, economic development

STATE HOUSE – The Senate passed a bill last week which would shift more emphasis to integrating renewable energy into the state’s economic development strategy. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski, would make changes to the Rhode Island Energy Efficiency and Resources Management Council in order to support forward movement in the realm of green jobs and renewable resources.

“We’re seeing more of a focus on green energy, and the passage of this bill really highlights the need for a more coordinated approach to how the state will handle that burgeoning market,” Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) said. “This legislation is like a guiding hand, strengthening what we have in place and slightly refocusing our efforts. I would ask my colleagues in the House to consider this defined approach in our overall strategy for a ‘green’ Rhode Island.”

The Senate passed the bill, which will now travel to the House for consideration, in a 37 to 0 vote.
The legislation (2013-S 0123A) adds three individuals to the Rhode Island Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council, changing the overall makeup of the council to nine voting members and five ex-officio members. 

The bill adds “energy efficiency education and employment training,” as well as “municipal energy users” to preferred expertise and specialties the governor should consider when choosing those appointed members. The director of the state Department of Labor and Training (or his or her designee from the department) has been added as an ex-officio member under the provisions of the legislation.

The bill also requires the council to add crucial information to its annual report, including a compilation of all energy efficiency businesses, consultants and vendors participating in energy efficiency programs or work related to energy audits, insulations and equipment installations for residential, small business and large commercial and industrial sectors. 

The report, which the council submits to the Joint Committee on Energy, would document funding allocations of the eligible energy efficiency programs so the state can better track its efforts.

The council will additionally be required to hold two public meetings each year with the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Coordinating Board and/or the advisory council to coordinate programmatic and funding efforts around the regional greenhouse gas initiative, system reliability, the diversification of energy resources for energy security and promotion of distributed generation renewable energy.

To ensure consistency, the Renewable Energy Coordinating Board will convene at least six times per year. During those meetings, it will work toward issuing recommendations for improvements to existing renewable energy procurement policies and programs that will create employment opportunities in Rhode Island.

“This is going to strongly encourage the number of opportunities in the state’s workforce, not just for recent college graduates, but for workers who have long been displaced or unemployed,” she said. 

“We also need to get more municipal energy users involved, which this bill does, and provide a strong line of communication among all aspects of the state’s renewable energy strategy. The key to any economic development initiative is not only creating opportunities, but creating sustainable community strategies.”

Senators David E. Bates (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence), Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) and William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) cosponsor the legislation.