Rhode Island Sets Ambitious Target For 100% Renewable Energy

Rhode Island’s governor signed legislation Wednesday setting the most ambitious target in the nation to require the state to be powered completely by renewable energy.

The legislation accelerates plans for the electric grid to operate with 100% renewable energy, so the goal is achieved in 2033.

It's the most ambitious timeline in the country — Oregon is the next closest state, with legislation that requires retail electricity providers to reduce emissions by 100% by 2040, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. There are currently 10 states with a 100% renewable portfolio standard or clean energy standard, with most timelines between 2040 and 2050, the NCSL said.

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee signed the bill at a solar farm in North Providence that was built at the site of the former municipal landfill. McKee said the state has momentum on clean energy and “an opportunity ahead of us like we’ve never seen before.”

The renewable energy legislation was championed in the state Senate by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat.

It states that all of the energy provided to Rhode Island by 2033 would come from renewable energy, either directly from renewable energy resources or through offsets in the regional market.

Ruggerio wanted to set the date as 2030 but that was changed during the legislative process to allow more time for offshore wind projects to come online and for battery storage technology to develop. Ruggerio said at the bill signing that the 2030 target was “tremendously ambitious,” while 2033 is realistic and “a great effort to move forward on renewable energy” that will create jobs and contribute to a clean environment.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo signed an executive order when she was Rhode Island's governor in 2020 that aimed to make the state the first in the nation to be powered completely by renewable energy by the end of the decade. But state law required annual 1.5 percentage point increases in the amount of electricity required to be generated from renewable sources through 2035.

Rhode Island's General Assembly also approved legislation this year to require the state’s electric utility to contract for up to 1,000 megawatts of new offshore wind capacity. The first U.S. offshore wind farm opened off Block Island, Rhode Island in 2016.

McKee is among a group of 11 East Coast governors that signed on to a formal partnership with the White House last week to boost the growing offshore wind industry, a key element of President Joe Biden’s plan for climate change.