‘Adding Insult to Injury:’ R.I. Needs Renewable Energy
August 21, 2023
For years, the residents of Rhode Island have had their sights set on offshore wind coming to our state to power pretty much everything. We got our first taste in 2016 with the Block Island Wind Farm — a five-turbine, 30-megawatt (MW) experimental project. In January 2020, an executive order was signed to advance a 100% renewable electricity future for Rhode Island by 2030. The stage was set in 2021 with the passing of the Act on Climate law. In 2022, the General Assembly enacted a Renewable Energy Standard of 100% by 2033. This goal seemed within reach when the 65-turbine, 704-MW Revolution Wind project recently cleared state hurdles with the Coastal Resources Management Council. Recently, we hit a snafu when Rhode Island Energy rejected Ørsted’s proposal for what would have been an 880-MW Revolution Wind 2 project.
Rhode Island Energy president David Bonenberger said the proposed costs of Revolution Wind 2 “were ultimately deemed too expensive for customers to bear.” Just a few days after this announcement, Rhode Island Energy announced a 24% hike in electricity rates for the season starting Oct. 1.
In the backdrop of all this, July was the hottest month ever recorded. June also smashed the previous temperature record for that month. This past week the global ocean temperatures soared to the highest level on record. I won’t even mention the historic wildfires in Hawaii.
It would be one thing if Rhode Island was paying more for energy but the energy was being created in a clean manner, but Rhode Island is 87% powered by natural gas. So not only are electricity prices going up, but the impacts of climate change are as well. Talk about adding insult to injury.
With much fanfare, Gov. Dan McKee announced the RFP for an additional 600 to 1,000 MW of wind energy last October and only received one bid, Revolution Wind 2, from Ørsted. Imagine you’re in a broken-down car on the side of the road and you call AAA but you don’t have a membership. The price to get a tow will be high, but it doesn’t matter; an expensive tow is significantly better than a night spent in a broken-down car. In this scenario, Rhode Island is the broken-down car on the side of the road and Ørsted is AAA. The tow to the mechanic might be costly, but it beats sitting idly by. Creating hundreds of wind turbines might be an expensive proposition, but unless a nuclear fusion reactor miraculously falls out of the sky and lands in Exeter, it’s the only realistic chance we have of lowering our carbon emissions.
In addition, the one firm that bid on the RFP, Ørsted, is a noted leader in the labor industry. They recently signed a National Offshore Wind Agreement, a commitment to employ union labor. Ørsted and partner Eversource have pledged millions of dollars toward workforce development in offshore wind. The money spent on building this wind project would go toward employing our state to build the clean local energy system we’ll need for the future. Rhode Island has done a superb job at becoming a national leader in offshore wind, why stop now?
To meet any of the ambitious climate goals passed by the General Assembly, our state either needs to start producing cleaner energy or we must prepare to buy lots of expensive Renewable Energy Credits (REC) created by renewable energy projects in other places. RECs are a stopgap that kicks the can down the road a little more and allows politicians to say that they’re doing something, but they pale in comparison to actually building the infrastructure needed to save our state. Why are we letting Rhode Island Energy pick our pocketbooks and not build the infrastructure needed to produce clean energy?
A Tesla dealership is being constructed down the street from me in Providence. Electric cars are just one part of the puzzle of electrifying everything. If we have to make electricity from natural gas, like we do now, then we might as well just stick with internal combustion engines. Harnessing offshore wind is critical to addressing the climate quandary we’re in, no matter the cost. To imperil not just Rhode Islanders, but the world, is just plain irresponsible.
Tyson Bottenus is a concerned Rhode Islander.
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