Senate approves bill seeking more offshore wind in Rhode Island

The Senate has passed new legislation which seeks additional offshore wind development in Rhode Island. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer at the request of Gov. Daniel McKee, would require a market-competitive procurement for approximately 600 MW of newly-developed offshore wind capacity.

If enacted, Rhode Island’s primary utility company would be required to issue the procurement no later than 15 October 2022.

Rhode Island is home to Block Island Wind Farm, North America’s first operational offshore wind farm, and the state has also approved the 400 MW Revolution Wind offshore project.

An additional 600 MW of offshore wind would further expand the state’s clean energy portfolio, with the potential to meet 30 percent of Rhode Island’s estimated 2030 electricity demand. This is equivalent to powering roughly 340,000 homes each year. Including the 30 MW
Block Island Wind farm and the planned 400 MW Revolution Wind project, offshore wind would cover 50 percent of the state’s projected energy needs.

Under the bill, the state’s main electricity and natural gas distributor — now named Rhode Island Energy after its recent sale from National Grid to PPL — would be required to solicit bids for 600 MW of new offshore wind capacity to feed into the electric grid.

The legislation was amended to remove an incentive that would have required ratepayers to absorb an incentive for the company equal to 2 percent of the contract value. The amendment also allows the Public Utilities Commission greater authority to decide on disputed items in the contract between the utility and the developer.

The legislation requires the applications for new development to be publicly transparent, comply with labor standards and create a diversity, equity and inclusion plan that, at a minimum, addresses access to employment and vendor opportunities for historically marginalised communities.

The bill would also require offshore wind developers to provide information on potential environmental impacts through the submittal of an environmental and fisheries mitigation plan; estimates of local economic benefits.

Any proposed offshore wind contract would require review by the Office of Energy Resources, the Department of Environmental Management, and Rhode Island Commerce in the form of agency advisory opinions. Such contracts would have to be filed with the Public Utilities Commission for review and approval.

The legislation (2022-S 2583A) now heads to the House of Representatives.