The Energy Consumer's Bulletin- a New England energy news blog

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Rhode Island Must Increase its Capacity to Make Climate Progress

Rhode Island has committed to combating climate change by adopting one of the strongest climate policies in the nation: An Act on Climate, committing the state to 45% emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050. While Rhode Island is at the forefront of aggressive climate policy, it is not alone. California, New York, and Massachusetts all have similar emissions reductions targets and the ultimate goal of net zero by 2050. The difference is that these states have all backed up their commitment by making budgetary allocations for decarbonization. Rhode Island has just recently taken a modest step towards funding its decarbonization efforts.  

Funding for the EC4 

Rhode Island’s FY024 budget has allocated $4.5 million in funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative program to support The Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4), the interagency council tasked with overseeing the implementation of An Act on Climate, which has never received funding until now. Funding for the council, which is made up of hard-working state employees, is the missing link between the state having ambitious climate goals and actually implementing the policies necessary to meet such goals.


Funding for Electric Vehicles & Bike Rebates 

While the majority of the funding will be allocated at the September EC4 meeting, the council has already authorized $400,000 to go towards the Office of Energy Resources (EC4’s) Drive EV and Erika Niedowski Memorial Electric Bicycle Rebate programs.


Current Climate Action 

100% Renewable Energy Standard 

We must not forget that Rhode Island stands as the first state in the nation to enact a 100% Renewable Energy Standard by 2033. This pioneering target further demonstrates Rhode Island's leadership and determination to combat climate change and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The state will be within striking distance of the standard thanks to the 400MW of offshore coming online from the Revolution Wind project and the recent RFP for an additional 600-1,000MW of offshore wind power.  

Offshore wind

While the Renewable Energy Standard is a great and necessary policy, it does not require much in the way of additional state resources because it’s a modification of an existing, long-standing policy.  You can read more about the 100% Renewable Energy Standard here. 

Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC-II) & Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) 

Rhode Island is also in the process of adopting Advanced Clean Cars II and Advanced Clean Trucks, which are significant steps forward in reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions from the transportation sector, which is the highest greenhouse gas emitting sector in Rhode Island. You can read more here and here. However, most of the implementation of these standards is on the manufacturers, requiring them to produce more electric cars and trucks. There is no financial burden on the state from these regulations, therefore allowing it to go from a plan to a reality.


Climate Action in Need of Funding 

While the state is on the right track in the electric and transportation sector, we can’t say the same for the building sector, and we attribute this in part to the fact that there’s no way to avoid reducing emissions in the building sector that won’t require more implementation resources by state agencies. Take the benchmarking and building performance standard, for example. This policy was one of our top priorities during the 2023 legislative session that ultimately didn’t make it across the finish line. While there were several factors at play, one of them was that the Office of Energy Resources simply lacked the staff and funding to implement the standard. As a reminder, most of our building stock in 2050 already exists today, so if we want to reach net zero by 2050, we must implement a standard by which existing buildings must reduce their emissions.  

If we want to decarbonize buildings, the second largest sector of Greenhouse Gas emissions in Rhode Island, the state must allocate funding towards the implementation of building decarbonization policies that will get us there. A public comment period is expected before the EC4 allocates the rest of the funding, and Green Energy Consumers intends to advocate for this point then.