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RI House passes bill to stop charging renewables owners for grid updates

Rhode Island legislation prohibiting utilities from charging owners of renewable energy projects for system modifications to the grid not directly related to their own interconnections overwhelmingly passed the state House of Representatives.

Rhode Island's lower chamber of its General Assembly passed in a 68-3 vote on June 7 an amended H.B. 5483 that seeks to encourage the growth of renewables, such as solar panels, by streamlining their interconnection with the power grid. Instead of charging project owners for system modifications that are not directly related to their project's interconnection, those grid revisions will now be included in rates paid by all ratepayers, as determined by the state Public Utilities Commission.

"The installation of renewable energy systems, and their subsequent product, is an economic development boom for Rhode Island," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kenneth Marshall. "By making interconnection less of a hassle and eliminating undue expense, this legislation encourages more people to jump in and install renewable energy systems, creating jobs and generating dollars in our state."

Under the bill, electric distribution companies could still charge customers for accelerated modifications where the developer is repaid when the changes would have otherwise been made. Likewise, it would require any system modifications be completed no later than 14 months from when the renewable energy customer's interconnection service agreement is effective or the customer's agreed-upon expected interconnection date.

H.B. 5483 is now waiting to be considered in the state Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee, which currently does not have any upcoming meetings scheduled. The Rhode Island General Assembly is expected to adjourn for the session mid-June.

National Grid USA, known legally as Narragansett Electric Co., is the utility that supplies electricity for most of Rhode Island. National Grid did not immediately return request for comment on June 9.