The Rhode Island legislature passed legislation expanding the state's remote net metering program for renewable energy resources to allow participation by churches, schools, colleges, hospitals and nonprofits.
The state General Assembly approved an amended H 5618A/S 1007 after the House of Representatives and Senate voted unanimously in favor of the legislation May 30 and June 30, respectively. Sponsored by Democrats Rep. Aaron Regunberg and Sen. Louis DiPalma, the legislation now will go before the governor for consideration.
Net metering programs give owners of renewable energy projects, such as rooftop solar panels, credit for the generation they feed into the power grid, and remote net metering "allows for the renewable energy installation to be at a site other than the one receiving the credit," according to a news release issued by the General Assembly.
State law initially allowed only municipalities to participate in remote net metering, but lawmakers in 2016 expanded the program to include community projects serving affordable housing or groups of three or more residential customers.
"When we reduce our reliance on out-of-state fossil fuels by generating more of our own pollution-free energy right here in Rhode Island, we keep our energy dollars in-state and reduce our emissions," Regunberg said. "If we can give schools, churches, hospitals and other nonprofits the means to make these win-win-win investments, we should!"
Supporters also argued that further expansion of the remote net metering program will support the State Energy Plan to shift away from out-of-state fossil fuels, encourage the growth of renewables and save an estimated $6.6 billion to $15.4 billion, or 8% to 19%, in fuel costs by 2035.
The legislation is the latest in a serious of bills passed by Rhode Island lawmakers that seek to streamline the growth of renewable energy resources. For instance, Gov. Gina Raimondo on June 26 signed into law legislation establishing a statewide "predictable and universal process" for municipals permitting rooftop solar panels. Raimondo also is considering legislation passed by the General Assembly that would prohibit utilities from charging renewable owners for grid upgrades not directly related to their own interconnections.