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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Ocean State Ranks High in Renewable Energy Growth Since 2012

And we can do even better

By Bonnie Phillips / ecoRI News staff

EDITOR'S NOTE: Residential size vertical axis wind turbine. (E-Magazine). Quiet, reliable but virtually illegal in Charlestown because of the CCA. At Arrowhead Dental, Dr. Bruce Gouin has a bunch of various varieties - but all non-generating - turbines in the garden around the building. They're beautiful, but it'd be great if they also generated green energy. - Will Collette

Rhode Island has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun, the wind and the earth since 2012, according to a report released Thursday by the Environment America Research & Policy Center.

The Ocean State ranked seventh in the nation for the percent change in energy it gets from renewable sources over the past decade, according to the report “Renewables on the Rise 2022,” which documents the growth of six key renewable energy technologies across the U.S. over the past decade: solar power, wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency, electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations. 

According to the report, Rhode Island produced 14 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity from wind, solar and geothermal in 2012, and 894 GWh in 2021 — a 6,285.71% increase.

“In the past decade, clean energy has really taken off in Rhode Island,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Rhode Islanders can look forward to a cleaner, healthier future, thanks to the state’s leadership in solar and wind energy.” 

new law signed by Gov. Dan McKee at the end of the 2022 legislative session requires utility companies to buy more power from renewable sources. The goal is to meet Rhode Island’s electricity needs with 100% renewable energy by 2033, the fastest timeline of any state. 

In 2018, Rhode Island consumed 8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to the most-recent data available from the state Office of Energy Resources (OER). Of those hours, about a billion were generated emissions-free by renewable energy.

According to the report, which includes a searchable database, Rhode Island ranked 33rd in the country for the growth of wind energy in 10 years, going from 13 GWh in 2012 to 174 GWh in 2022.

For solar energy generation, Rhode Island ranked 24th, going from 1 GWh in 2012 to 720 GWh in 2022, according to the report. That much solar energy could power 67,000 households for a year.

The report also rated the state’s energy savings, ranking Rhode Island 26th. The state saved 1,850 GWh from energy efficiency measures in 2020, which could power 172,661 households for a year.

When it comes to electric vehicles (EV), however, Rhode Island sinks in the ratings. The report ranked the state 41st in EV sales from 2012-2022, behind Massachusetts (7th), Connecticut (21st), Maine (30th), Vermont (32nd), and New Hampshire (33rd). In 2021, 16,926 EVs were sold in Massachusetts, compared to 1,681 in Rhode Island, according to the report.

In addition to highlighting states that have made the most progress in adopting renewable energy technologies, the research also details the rapid gains achieved nationally over the past decade. According to the report, America produced more than three times as much renewable energy in 2021 as in 2012. 

The report found that seven states now produce enough electricity from renewable sources to cover half of their electricity consumption. In 2016, five years earlier, not one state had achieved this level of renewable energy progress. 

And renewable energy production should get a big boost from the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congress this summer and signed by President Joe Biden. 

The legislation distributes federal money, mostly via tax credits, rebates, grants, and loans, toward a huge range of Americans, including homeowners, buyers of cars and buses, manufacturers of buildings and vehicles, developers of solar and wind power, nonprofits, people with low incomes, and municipalities.

The sectors set to receive among the biggest injections of federal cash are electrical power ($214 billion), manufacturing (about $65 billion), building efficiency and electrification ($36 billion), and transportation ($29 billion).

The exact amount Rhode Islanders can expect to see remains unknown, but the climate provisions should enhance a number of existing state programs and laws already on the books.

“This is by far the biggest step the United States has ever taken to lower emissions,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., after the bill’s Senate passage. “It is a good reason for hope.”

Modeling by Energy Innovation found that the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act will spur renewable energy and reduce pollution from fossil fuels, preventing up to 4,500 premature deaths and up to 119,000 asthma attacks annually by 2030.

“Millions of Americans and Rhode Islanders are already reaping the benefits of the dramatic clean energy progress we’ve made so far,” Neumann said. 

“With federal tax credits promising to turbocharge clean energy, Rhode Island couldn’t have picked a better year to set a goal of meeting 100% of its electricity needs with renewable energy by 2033.”