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By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor
NEW YORK – Since the inception of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in Rhode Island, the RGGI invested $7.3 million through December 2011, primarily in energy efficiency and conservation projects, making Rhode Island fifth in the county in energy efficiency investments, according to a report from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The RGGI is an initiative of nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the report – “Regional Investment of RGGI CO2 Allowance Proceeds, 2001” – there have been $617 million in RGGI investments from 2009 to 2011 in energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy, direct energy bill assistance and greenhouse gas abatement and climate change adaptation .
The report analyzed the investments and found that participating states directed 66 percent of their RGGI investments to energy efficiency, 5 percent to clean and renewable energy, 17 percent to direct energy bill assistance and 6 percent to greenhouse gas abatement and climate change adaptation programs.
“The RGGI program has provided its participating states with significant environmental, economic, and consumer returns on investment,” David Littell, a commissioner of the Maine Public Utilities Commission and vice-chair of RGGI, said in a statement. “These investment returns have helped make the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region a leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions abatement, and are accelerating the region’s transition to a clean energy economy.”
Comparatively, Rhode Island focused the majority of its investments in energy efficiency and conservation projects. The ocean state invested 38 percent of its funds to small business efficiency, 33 percent to residential efficiency and 20 percent to large commercial & industrial efficiency. Less than 1 percent of investments were made on community efficiency initiatives and energy efficiency education.
Through Dec. 31, 2011, the R.I. Office of Energy Resources worked with National Grid to expand energy efficiency program to deliver maximum benefits to residential, commercial and industrial consumers; low-income households; and local governments.
According to the report, National Grid’s programs provide free energy audits to small businesses and can pay for up to 70 percent of the cost of installation for energy efficiency measures. The remaining 30 percent of cost can be financed interest –free for up to 24 months through a revolving loan program made possible by the RGGI. National Grid also has an EnergyWise program, which provides free energy assessments to homeowners.
“These and other energy efficiency programs helped to make Rhode Island fifth in the nation in energy efficiency investments in 2001, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy,” said the report.
Regionally, RGGI investments in energy efficiency have offset the need for more than 1.6 million MWhs of electricity generation and are expected to offset the limited need for a total 22 million MWhs of electricity generation.
According to the report, in addition to the environmental impact, RGGI investments have had a positive effect on consumer energy bills and the regional clean energy economy.
From 2009 to 2011, RGGI investments directly benefited 2.9 million households and 7,400 businesses, generated roughly $1.3 billion in lifetime energy bill savings for utility customers, channeled more than $617 million into the region’s clean energy economy, returned $69 million in bill credits to roughly 84,000 low-income families and helped approximately 2,400 workers secure training in clean energy job skills.
“By helping to modernize the region’s energy infrastructure, RGGI investments are lowering consumer utility bills through energy efficiency, supporting development of cleaner energy sources, and reducing emission from criteria pollutants and carbon dioxide,” Collin P. O’Mara, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and chair of the RGGI board of directors, said in prepared remarks.
“Overall, RGGI investments have turned a ‘triple-play’ that delivers significant economic, environmental, and consumer benefits to businesses and families in the region,” added O’Mara.
To view the full RGGI report, visit: www.rggi.org.