Rhode Islanders are free to choose electricity from a wide variety of competing companies. Some of these offer lower rates, while others focus on greener energy or long-term price stability as their key selling points. The state's first CCA program is set to launch in May of 2023, with 6 communities participating.
CCA was enabled in Rhode Island through the Utility Restructuring Act of 1996. The Act was amended in 2002 by House Bill 7786 to give municipalities the ability to set up “opt out” programs. Before 2002, less than 1% of customers had chosen alternative electricity providers.
The Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns administers the RI Energy Aggregation Program (REAP), which has served as the electricity aggregator to many League members for more than twenty years. The program has used the collective purchasing power of Rhode Island cities and towns to negotiate lower electricity rates and provide budget stability. REAP also provides other advisory services, including energy market analysis, green power procurement, energy efficiency options and solar projects.
The League has a joint REAP service agreement with Constellation New Energy and PowerOptions, a nonprofit consortium that provides energy purchasing, advisory and support services to New England nonprofit and public sector members.
CCA in Rhode Island took a major step forward with the passage of Senate bill 877, which passed in special session September 19th, 2017, and House bill 5536 which passed June 1st 2017.
This legislation was brought by Representative Deborah Ruggiero, and supported by green power advocates People’s Power & Light (a partner group with Mass Energy Consumers Alliance MECA), the Environmental Council of Rhode Island, and the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC), a clean energy business association. This bill is described as removing procedural hurdles that previously prevented the implementation of aggregation in Rhode Island, and aligning Rhode Island’s aggregation law more closely with the law in neighboring Massachusetts, under which 136 communities now have such programs.
H 7786 (2002) had previously required that opt-out aggregation would require a vote by the electors of the community (see lines 14-11 through 14-15), not by the governing body of that municipality or township. H 5536 (2017) removes that roadblock to aggregation, eliminating the provision that requires individual customers to opt in to the aggregate purchase. Instead, it creates programs in which all customers in the contract area are included unless they opt out. Opting out, however, must be allowed at least every two years and without penalty.
CURRENT AND EMERGING ISSUES
Rhode Island will launch it's first CCA program in May, 2023 with seven communities communities participating: Providence, Barrington, Central Falls, Narragansett, Newport, Portsmouth and South Kingstown. The program's automatic rate is approximately 9.4 cents per kilowatt hour for their summer period of May through November. Rhode Island Energy's proposed summer rate is currently about 10.4 cents per kilowatt hour pending approval by the Public Utility Commission.
Newport Community Energy, when launched in May, will have 3 electricity options: 100% renewable, 50% renewable and an option with only the minimum amount of renewable energy required by state law for those seeking the lowest cost. Rates will be fixed over an initial six-month period from May 2023 through November 2023.
Rhode Island’s renewable energy standard is 16% in 2020, rising 1.5 percentage points per year until reaching 38.5% in 2035. The authorizing legislation was HB 7413, enacted in June, 2016.
The controversial Block Island Wind Farm off the southern coast of Rhode Island is the first commercial offshore wind farm in the US. Construction of five 6 MW wind turbines was completed in August, 2016 and commercial operation began in December, 2016. The 30 MW wind farm’s output is equal to approximately 1% of Rhode Island’s electricity usage.
LEGISLATION (PARTIAL LIST)
The Utility Restructuring Act of 1996 (Chapter 316 96-H 8124B) was signed into law Aug. 7, 1996 and authorized CCAs
Summary of The Utility Restructuring Act of 1996 describes the key provisions of the act
RI General Law 45-55-13.2 (1999) allowed REAP to begin taking bids from power providers
Restructuring Act of 2002 (H 7786, 2002 R.I. Public Laws chapter 144) was signed into law June 18, 2002.
Summary of the Restructuring Act of 2002 describes the key provisions of the act. Note: this summary was written by a Connecticut state employee.)
Senate bill 2841A (2010) decoupled utility profits from utility sales volume to remove disincentives to energy efficiency and demand reduction measures.
Senate bill 877 (2017): Amends laws regarding the aggregation of electrical loads by a municipality, and requires at least one public hearing to be held, for review by its residents, prior to adopting any plan, to be approved by the public utilities commission.
House bill 5536 (2017): Amends the laws regulating the aggregation of electrical loads by a municipality or group of municipalities; requires that at least one public hearing be held for review by its residents prior to adopting any plan, then approval by the PUC.
Community Electricity Program to start in seven Rhode Island municipalities. turnto10.com, March 21, 2023
Amid rising energy costs, R.I. cities and towns look to buy their own electricity. pbn.com, September 28, 2022
Guest View – Sean O’Connor: Newport looking for a brighter energy future. whatsupnewp.com, August 5, 2021
Newport is mulling a new bulk energy supplier. Here's what you need to know. The Newport Daily News, July 27, 2021
Rhode Island Approves First Aggregation Plans Covering Over 80,000 Households. patch.com, May 28, 2021
Wave of Offshore Wind Creates Surge for Energy Justice. Eco RI News, April 26, 2021
With New Municipal Programs, Rhode Island Electricity Will Contain More Local Renewable Energy. Eco RI News, July 27, 2020
RI Energy Aggregation Program (REAP is the aggregation program organized by the RI League of Cities and Towns to supply electricity for municipal operations. It does not aggregate purchases for residents or businesses)
Green Energy Consumers Alliance's Aggregation Page
OTHER HELPFUL LINKS
CCA-Enabling Legislation: HB 7786
US Energy Information Administration, Rhode Island State Energy Profile
Empower RI (A web site for comparing rates from all electricity suppliers, of which there nearly 20 for residential accounts)
Energy Supplier List (Companies authorized to sell to commercial and industrial customers)
Energy Supplier List (Companies authorized to sell to residential customers)
National Grid (The major electric utility in the state)
RI League of Cities and Towns (The association that sponsors REAP)
RI Office of Energy Resources (The state agency that oversees energy-related programs)
RI Public Utilities Commission (Regulatory agency)
Page last updated 3.24.23