Rhode Island leaders want ‘bold’ commitment to offshore wind

Rhode Island leaders want offshore wind to supply more of the state’s power in order to cement its position as a hub for the industry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set an example for other states looking to stave off the worst effects of a warming planet.

The General Assembly is considering Democratic Gov. Dan McKee’s proposal for procuring an additional 600 megawatts of offshore wind, enough to power about 340,000 homes annually.

McKee said Wednesday that expanding the state’s offshore wind resources will further position Rhode Island “as the North American hub” for the industry. The first U.S. offshore wind farm opened off Block Island, Rhode Island in 2016.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm praised Rhode Island for its role in developing offshore wind when she visited the Port of Providence in December. The Biden administration wants to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, generating enough electricity to power more than 10 million homes.

State Sen. Dawn Euer, a Newport Democrat, sponsored legislation in the Rhode Island Senate to issue a request for proposals for 600 megawatts of newly-developed offshore wind capacity no later than Aug. 15. She said Wednesday that with a “strong and bold” procurement, the state can continue to lead the conversation about offshore wind development.

“We’re doing it responsibly, we’re doing it sustainably and we’re doing it aggressively,” said Euer, who leads the Senate’s environment and agriculture committee.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo signed an executive order when she was Rhode Island’s governor in 2020 that set a goal for the electric grid to operate with 100% renewable energy by 2030. Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio introduced a bill in February that would write that goal into law, accelerate current plans and outline the path forward.

And the state’s Act on Climate, signed by McKee last year, sets mandatory emissions reduction goals, culminating in net-zero economy-wide emissions by 2050, which means the amount of greenhouse gases produced is no more than the amount removed from the atmosphere.

“There’s an urgency here in Rhode Island to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy,” Rhode Island Energy Commissioner Nicholas Ucci said Wednesday. “Offshore wind happens to be a resource that’s located very close to home, can be developed at great scale and can provide very well-priced energy.”

Rhode Island already gets 30 megawatts of power through the wind farm off Block Island and plans to buy 400 megawatts through the Revolution Wind project, a planned offshore wind farm south of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to provide power for Connecticut and Rhode Island. Adding another 600 megawatts more would supply roughly half of the power the state projects it needs in 2030, Ucci said.

Ucci added that the more renewable resources that come online, the more it displaces the entire region’s reliance of fossil fuels since Rhode Island is part of New England’s regional grid. Democratic Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos said Rhode Island is setting an example for the rest of the nation by developing offshore wind to help cut greenhouse gas emissions to “net zero.”

McKee planned to meet with state lawmakers and agency leaders at the Port of Providence Wednesday to bring attention to the proposal.

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