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Assembly to weigh proposal to create R.I. Power Authority

Legislation submitted to the R.I. General Assembly by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri would create a R.I. Power Authority to spearhead the development of renewable energy sources and ensure that Rhode Islanders are the primary beneficiaries of whatever electricity is produced.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, and co-sponsored by Senate President Joseph A. Montalbano, D-North Providence, is to be heard tomorrow (Thursday, May 3) by the Senate Corporations Committee.

In a news release, the governor called the measure “a critical step” in the effort to get Rhode Island to meet 15 percent or more of its electricity needs with energy from renewable sources.

“I believe it is critical that we decrease Rhode Island’s reliance on foreign sources of fossil fuels,” he said. “The high cost of foreign oil hurts Rhode Island families and businesses, while polluting our environment.”

The new authority would be a public corporation, controlled by a board of directors and chaired by the commissioner of the R.I. Office of Energy Resources. It would be managed by an executive director appointed by the governor, and it would have the power to borrow and conduct other independent transactions, as the R.I. Economic Development Corporation has.

The quasi-public entity would be responsible for authorizing and helping to finance the development of renewable energy sources, such as wind power and hydroelectric projects. It would also be authorized to trade the electricity generated by these projects in order to ensure that it is made available to Rhode Island consumers.

Carcieri noted that just last week, the state learned it could achieve five times its 15-percent goal through wind power alone, and said that the R.I. Office of Energy Resources is also working on “several exciting hydroelectric and wave power projects.”

“But determining what is technically feasible is just the first step,” Carcieri said. “We must also find a way to organize, authorize and, in some cases, help finance the development of these projects. We must also ensure that the electricity that is generated is not simply fed back onto the electricity grid, where its benefit to Rhode Islanders will be diluted. Rhode Islanders should enjoy the full benefits of the renewable energy projects Rhode Island creates. A Rhode Island Power Authority will help us achieve both these objectives.”

Information on bills before the R.I. General Assembly is available at www.rilin.state.ri.us. Additional information, including last week’s wind-energy report, is available at www.ri.gov.

By Marion Davis,
PBN Managing Editor


2 May 2007