Energy policy in Rhode Island

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Energy policy in Rhode Island
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Quick facts
Energy department: Office of Energy Resources[1]
State population: 1.1 million
Per capita income: $44,990
Energy consumption
Total energy consumption: 184 trillion BTU[2][3]
Per capita energy consumption: 175 million BTU
Energy spending
Total state energy spending: $3.818 million
Per capita energy spending: $3,634
Residential natural gas price: $12.53 per thousand cubic foot
Residential electricity price: 15.97 cents per kWh
See also
Energy on the ballot
Statewide fracking on the ballot
Local fracking on the ballot
Policypedia Energy logo.jpg
Energy Policy Project
Energy policy in the United States
Energy use in the United States
Glossary of energy terms
Energy policy in Rhode Island
Fracking in Rhode Island
Energy policy in Rhode Island depends on geography, natural energy resources, how electricity is generated, how much energy consumers use, politics and the influence of groups such as environmental and industry organizations. Decisions by policymakers, such as state and local governments, utilities and regulatory agencies, affect all citizens economically and environmentally, and are generally geared toward providing reliable, affordable energy. The cost of energy affects not only home heating and electricity bills, and thus disposable income, but also economic growth, including jobs, investment and the cost of doing business in the state.

How energy is produced and consumed also has an impact on the environment and pollution. Energy policy in Rhode Island focuses on increasing energy independence, and achieving reliable, cost-effective, energy for the state's overall well being.[4] As the infrastructure for producing and delivering renewable energy sources is not as advanced as it is for energy generation from traditional sources, these policies often require subsidies to make the produced energy affordable, and their effects are difficult to measure.

Energy policy involves tradeoffs between providing an affordable, consistent energy supply on the one hand, and limiting pollution and protecting the environment, on the other. How states attempt to balance these two differs between states, and often boils down to costs to consumers versus costs to the environment. This article provides general energy information about the state as the context within which energy policy is made, as well as information about major legislation and public and private groups that play a role in setting energy policy in the state.

See also: Energy policy in the United States for more information on energy policy.
See also: Fracking in Rhode Island

Energy overview

State facts

Below are quick facts about Rhode Island's energy climate.

Rhode Island

  • is a net electricity exporter.
  • has no fossil fuels.
  • is one of two states with no coal-fired electricity generation in state.
  • has no nuclear power or ethanol plants.
  • produces only 3 trillion BTU, but consumes 184 trillion BTU of energy.
  • mandates that 16 percent of all electricity come from renewable sources by 2019.[5]

In Rhode Island

  • most renewable energy used in the state is from landfill gas (methane).
  • the transportation sector consumes one-third of the total energy consumed.
  • half of the homes are heated by natural gas.
  • the industrial sector consumes about 10 percent of the total energy consumed, making it the smallest energy consuming sector.
  • about 98 percent of the electricity generated in the state comes from natural gas, all of which has to be imported before it can be used to generate electricity.
  • only energy from renewables is produced in the state.
  • most of the energy consumed in the state is overwhelmingly from natural gas.[5]

Available energy resources

Rhode Island has no traditional energy resources such as oil, coal or natural gas. The state has to import all of the traditional energy resources it uses. Natural gas is imported through interstate pipelines, mainly from Connecticut, while oil is shipped in to the Port of Providence.[5]

Rhode Island has renewable energy resources that contributed about 2 percent of the energy for electricity in 2011 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Almost all of that is from landfill gas. The state has negligible amounts of other forms of renewable energy. There are plans to expand into offshore wind energy farms in order to meet renewable goals that have been set by the state legislature. Rhode Island has a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that requires that 16 percent of its electricity consumption be generated from renewable sources by 2019. The state has been meeting current RPS requirements by buying renewable energy from other states, which the state's RPS legislation counts towards the goal.[5]

Consumption and prices

Energy consumption in Rhode Island
RI energy consumption chart.png

     Transportation       Residential     Industrial       Commercial
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As shown on the pie chart to the right, in 2011 one-third of Rhode Island's energy use was for transportation. A little less than one-third was used in the residential sector--for heating, cooling, lighting and other functions. The remaining third is split between the commercial sector, consuming about 20 percent of the total remaining. The industrial sector makes up the smallest amount with a bit over 10 percent of total consumption. Agriculture accounts for a minuscule fraction of total energy use in Rhode Island; the state is ranked 50th overall for agricultural production. Most of the energy used in the state is in the form of natural gas (used primarily for generating electricity).[5]

Gasoline is the second largest source of energy consumption in Rhode Island. To compare current gasoline prices in Rhode Island to the U.S averages, go to The state's average gas price is generally higher by a small fraction, but follows the national average overall. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's February 2014 report, the federal excise tax is 18.40 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.40 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. In addition to that, Rhode Island collects a total tax of 33.12 cents on every gallon of gasoline, diesel and gasohol fuel, which ranks it at the 13th highest in the United States.[7][8] Reformulated gasoline is required throughout the state in order to decrease ozone formation. Reformulated gasoline has additives, such as ethanol, that supply additional oxygen to enhance combustion, with the goal of being more environmentally friendly. The difference does not noticeably impact the ability of drivers in Rhode Island, but is expected to help decrease emissions.[9]

Comparisons tables

The table below compares Rhoda Island's consumption and spending for energy, as well as prices for natural gas and electricity, and carbon emissions to those of Connecticut, which has similar resources and consumption needs because of climate and geography. Rhode Island is the smallest state in the nation, even smaller than Hawaii, which may be why it has so few resources.[10] Also given are the U.S. averages and the state rankings. All rankings are from highest to lowest, so, for example:

  • Connecticut's rank of 41st in carbon emissions means that carbon emissions are somewhat higher than Rhode Island's, which ranks 49th.
  • Per capita income in Connecticut is higher than in Rhode Island by 13 places.
  • Per capita energy consumption in Rhode Island (at 51st because Washington D.C. is included in the rankings) is very similar to Connecticut's consumption (at 49th).
  • Total energy spending in Connecticut is significantly higher because it ranks 29th to Rhode Island’s ranking of 49th.
  • Both states have very high natural gas prices, with Rhode Island's price slightly lower than Connecticut's. (A ranking of 12 means that Rhode Island has the 12th highest price in the nation.)
  • Electricity prices in both states are significantly higher than the national average. (Rhode Island has the ninth highest price, and Connecticut has the fourth highest price in the nation.)
Consumption and Expenditures Comparisons Summary
Type Rhode IslandConnecticutU.S. Figures
FigureU.S. Rank*FigureU.S. Rank*Totals
Population1.1 million433.6 million29313.9 million
Per Capita Income Average$44,99015$58,9082$42,693
Total Consumption184 trillion BTU49742 trillion BTU3597,301 quadrillion BTU
Per Capita Energy Consumption175 million BTU51207 million BTU49312 million BTU
Total Spending on Energy$3.818 million49$15.365 million29$1,394,088 million
Per Capita Spending on Energy$3,63446$4,28431$4,474
Price of Residential Natural Gas, dollar per thousand cubic feet$12.5312$13.1310$12.48
Price of Electricity, cents per kWh15.97918.21412.31
Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions, million metric tons (2010)114936.9415,631
*Rank is from highest to lowest.

One out of two Rhode Island residents uses natural gas to heat their homes, and one out of three Rhode Island residents uses fuel oil as the primary heat source for their homes. Fewer than one in ten Rhode Islanders uses electricity to heat their homes, probably because of the high price in the state (9th in the nation).[5]

See also: State Energy Rankings to compare all 50 states
Consumption of energy for heating homes in Rhode Island
Source Rhode Island 2011 U.S. average 2011
Natural gas 50.7% 49.5%
Fuel oil 36.8% 6.5%
Electricity 8.4% 35.4%
Liquid Petroleum Gases (LPG) 1.9% 5%
Other/none 2.1% 3.6%

Production and transmission

In 2011, Rhode Island produced almost 3.5 trillion BTUs of energy. This is only a little more than 1.5 percent of the state's total consumption. Almost all of the energy came from methane gas harvested from landfills and what the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) classifies as 'other,' which is "assumed to equal consumption of all renewable energies except biofuels." Because Rhode Island does not produce about 99.85 percent of its own energy, it has to import energy from other states. Rhode Island is one of two states, the other being Vermont, that does not use any energy generated by burning coal. Rhode Island is also part of the six-state regional grid, the Independent System Operator-New England (ISO-NE), which is focusing on decreasing dependence on coal. Currently most of the members of ISO-NE are still dependent upon coal during peak demand times during the summer.[5]

Energy production by type in Rhode Island, 2011
Type Amount Generated
(trillion BTU)
% of State % of USA
Other 3.4 100% 0.05%

There are only two main sources of electricity in Rhode Island according to the EIA, natural gas and renewable resources. As of November 2013, 8,000 MwH were generated from renewables. The electricity consumed in Rhode Island is almost entirely from natural gas. Natural gas is not found in Rhode Island, so there are several interstate pipelines that transport the gas to generators within the state. The state does not have any natural gas reserves or stocks.[5]

There are 92 unregulated electric utility companies, and three electric utility companies regulated by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in Rhode Island including, National Grid, Pascoag Utility District, and the Block Island Power Company. There are also three regulated electric utilities, National Grid, Pascoag Utility District and Block Island Power Company.[11][12][13] The sole regulated natural gas utility is the National Grid Gas Services. There are 54 unregulated natural gas utilities in the state.[14][15]

Where electricity comes from in Rhode Island[16]
Type Amount generated (MWh) % of state** % of U.S.**
Natural gas-fired 356,000 97.27% 0.04%
Other renewables 8,000 2.19% 0%
Total net electricity generation 366,000 100% 0.01%
**Note: Because the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) does not include all of a state's energy production in these figures, the EIA totals do not equal 100 percent. Instead, we have generated our own percentages.

Energy policy

Policy Issues
Rhode Island's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), also sometimes called a renewable energy standard, requires electricity providers to obtain 16 percent of power sold in Rhode Island from renewable resources by 2019. Less than two percent may come from renewable generators built before 1997.
See also: Fracking in Rhode Island

Energy policy is made, executed and influenced by many organizations, both public and private, and is codified in the laws and regulations of the state. Each state’s energy policy involves tradeoffs in which energy production and prices are weighed against environmental concerns and efficiency. Rhode Island's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), also sometimes called a renewable energy standard, requires electricity providers to obtain 16 percent of power sold in Rhode Island from renewable resources by 2019. Less than 2 percent may come from renewable generators built before 1997. The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is charged with determining whether the RPS goals remain achievable or if they will have to be adjusted. Utility companies have met their obligations, so far, by purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) from power produced in nearby states, which counts towards the RPS goals. The RECs mainly come from landfill gas and wind in New York, biomass and hydroelectric power in New Hampshire, and hydroelectric power from Vermont and Massachusetts. Pascoag Utility District and Block Island Power Co. have been exempted from the RPS goal. Besides RECs, qualifying renewable energy resources include, solar, geothermal, biodiesel, hydroelectric, and others.[17][18][19][20]

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving energy efficiency policy in the United States. Each year, they rank each state by their energy efficiency policies. Rhode Island ranked sixth in the nation, with a score of 35.5 out of 50.[21] There are differing estimates about the economic impact of these mandates in terms of costs that may affect prices and jobs, as well as the impact on the environment and pollution. Thus, for example, there are many new studies of what is called the "rebound effect" which refers to the fact that "some of the theoretically estimated gain in energy efficiency will be eroded as consumers consume additional goods and services."[22][23]

Major legislation

  • Rhode Island General Laws § 39-26.1 et seq. (2009) established the RPS goals for the state. The laws require that states supply 16 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2019. The legislation allows utility companies to purchase RECs from other states in order to meet their quota. Besides RECs, qualifying renewable energy resources include, solar, geothermal, biodiesel, hydroelectric and others.[24]
  • Rhode Island General Laws § 39-26-9 (2005) requires all electricity generating utilities to disclose the details of their fuel mixes and emissions to the end-use customers. This information must be provided every quarter, and must be written simply so that all can understand it. This same report must be filed with the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission.[25]
  • Rhode Island General Law § 31-37-7.1 (2012) sets minimum standards for gasoline. The law requires that all pumps in the state provide reformulated gasoline (RFG). Reformulated gasoline has additives, such as ethanol, that supply additional oxygen to enhance combustion and be more environmentally friendly. The different chemical components of reformulated gasoline are expected to help decrease emissions.[26][27]
  • House Bill 5986 (2009) requires that Rhode Island's building standards be updated to incorporate the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the American Society of Heating and Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers' standard ASHRAE 90.1-2007. These codes ensure energy efficiency and safety for both commercial and residential buildings throughout the state.[28]
  • Rhode Island General Laws § 39-27-1, et seq. (2005) requires that certain appliances and products meet energy efficiency standards before they are sold in the state. Currently, Rhode Island law allows for existing efficiency standards to be increased, but the revisions must be determined to promote energy conservation in the state, while also being cost-effective for consumers who purchase and use such products.[29]
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State energy policy

State fracking policy

Energy policy terms

Fracking in the U.S.

Energy use in the U.S.

Energy policy in the U.S.

State environmental policy

See also
Local fracking on the ballot

Statewide fracking on the ballot

Government agencies and committees

  • The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (RIPUC) consists of two regulatory bodies, a three-member commission and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers. The two parts work together in order to enforce energy legislation and provide information to the public about utilities and prices. The mission of RIPUC is to "provide fair regulation of public utilities, CATV, common carriers, and major energy facilities; ensure just and reasonable rates; ensure sufficient utility infrastructure to promote economic development; and coordinate with other states and federal government agencies."[31]
  • The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) works with private and public stakeholders in order to increase the security and reliability of the state's energy supply, decrease energy costs, and improve the quality of the environment. The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources recommends and implements smart energy policies that promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. The OER is striving to reduce Rhode Island's dependence on out-of-state fuels, while advancing the state as a leader in the new clean energy economy.[32]
  • The Rhode Island Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council provides an organizational structure to ensure that the people of Rhode Island have a safe and secure supply of economic and environmental benefits from energy efficiency, conservation, and practical resource management. The council makes recommendations on energy policy, plans and programs, as well as monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of those programs. The council also works to promote public awareness and understanding in response to energy issues.[33]
  • The Department of Environmental Management is responsible for "preserving the quality of Rhode Island's environment, maintaining the health and safety of its residents, and protecting the natural systems upon which life depends." The director has statutory authority over agriculture and conservation, parks and recreation, harbors and rivers, and public health.[34]

Major organizations

  • The Energy Council of Rhode Island (TEC-RI) is a non-profit membership organization made up of commercial, institutional and industrial users of energy in Rhode Island. Their membership includes some of the largest employers in the state. The TEC-RI seeks to identify and encourage the lowest cost, most economical alternatives to accomplish these objectives. Electricity is the focus of much of the state’s energy policy and program initiatives and this has become a primary focus of TEC-RI also.[35]
  • Environment Rhode Island Research and Policy Center works to provide clean water to drink and clean air to breathe; healthy lakes and rivers that are safe for swimming and fishing; preserved open spaces; clean sources of energy that don’t pollute and never run out. The center's staff researches environmental issues, educates the public with their research briefs and wins tangible results for the Rhode Island environment. The group also represents the interests of Rhode Island residents in court when environmental issues that affect the well being of the state are at stake.[36]
  • Rhode Island Energy is a partnership of universities that have an interest in collecting data on energy policies, as well as data on the impact of those policies. The group provides information for the general public that educates and helps residents, policymakers, towns and the academics of Rhode Island make smart energy decisions. The group breaks down information in such a way as to make it accessible for all.[37]

In the news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Rhode + Island+Energy+Policy"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Rhode Island Energy News Feed

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See also

External links


  1. Office of Energy Resources, "Home," accessed March 3, 2014
  2. These figures come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's State Profiles and Energy Estimates, Rhode Island Overview. Statistics for population and per capita income are for the year 2012; consumption and spending estimates are for 2011; and prices are for November 2013. Updated pricing information is available on the state's EIA profile. Prices will be updated on this page biannually.
  3. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Rhode Island Overview," accessed February 5, 2014
  4. Office of Energy Resources, "About the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources," March 3, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Rhode Island Profile Analysis," December 18, 2013
  6. This chart depicts the state's energy consumption as reported by the EIA for 2011. Click the image to enlarge.
  7. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Petroleum Marketing Monthly," February 2014," accessed February 14, 2014
  8. The Tax Foundation, "State Gasoline Tax Rates, 2009-2013," March 21, 2013
  9. Department of Environmental Management, "Rhode Island Converts to Ethanol Based Gasoline," April 2006, accessed March 3, 2014
  10. 50 States, "Rhode Island Facts and Trivia," accessed March 13, 2014
  11. Public Utilities Commission, "Nonregulated Power Producers Registered with the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities," September 11, 2013
  12. Public Utilities Commission, "Electric", September 11, 2013
  13. Public Utilities Commission, "Electric," August 29, 2013
  14. Public Utilities Commission, "Gas Marketers Registered with the Rhode island Public Utilities Commission", August 23, 2013
  15. "Public Utilities Commission", "Natural Gas," accessed March 3, 2014
  16. These figures come from the EIA State Profiles and Energy Estimates U.S. Energy Information Administration, Rhode Island Overview," accessed February 5, 2014
  17. U.S. Energy Information Administration, “State Energy Data System, Production,” accessed February 18, 2014
  18. According to a report called "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," by the free-market Institute for Energy Research, the cost of electricity in states with RPS were on average 38 percent higher in 2010 than in states without a RPS.
  19. Institute for Energy Research, "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," accessed March 24, 2014
  20. Manhattan Institute, "The High Cost of Renewable-Energy Mandates," February 2012
  21. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "State Energy Efficiency Policy Database," accessed February 27, 2014
  22. International Risk Governance Council, "The Rebound Effect: Implications of Consumer Behavior for Robust Energy Policies," accessed March 3, 2014
  23. Scientific American, "How Bad Is the Rebound from Energy Efficiency Efforts?," May 21, 2013, accessed March 3, 2014
  24. Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, "Renewable Energy Standard," August 27, 2012, accessed March 3, 2014
  25. Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, "Fuel Mix and Emissions Disclosure," February 1, 2013
  26. Justia, "2012 Rhode Island General Laws Title 31 - Motor and Other vehicles Chapter 31-37 - Retail Sale of Gasoline Chapter 31-37-7.1 - Minimum standards for gasoline," accessed March 3, 2014
  27. Department of Environmental Management, "Rhode Island Converts to Ethanol Based Gasoline," April 2006, accessed March 3, 2014
  28. Institute for Energy Research, "Rhode Island," accessed March 3, 2014
  29. Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, "Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards ," May 14, 2013, accessed March 3, 2014
  30. "Rhode Island State", "Committee Memberships," accessed March 4, 2014
  31. Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission, "Agency History," accessed March 4, 2014
  32. Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, "About," accessed March 4, 2014
  33. Rhode Island Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council, "Home," accessed March 4, 2014
  34., "Welcome message," accessed October 11, 2011
  35. The Energy Council of Rhode Island, "About Us," accessed March 4, 2014
  36. Environment Rhode Island Research and Policy Center, "About Us," accessed March 4, 2014
  37. Rhode Island Energy, "About," accessed March 4, 2014