Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES)—also known as a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)—is intended to increase use of renewable resources in the state by establishing the minimum amount of renewable energy that the state’s electricity providers must sell in a given year. This legally-established renewable energy procurement goal gradually increases over time to meet the overall target of 16% renewable power by 2019.
The state profile below explores the design of this policy, highlighting the factors that influence the success of Rhode Island’s RPS goals and the tradeoffs inherent to it. Once you’re comfortable with the information on this page, you can evaluate the policy’s expected viability with the RPS Feasibility Calculator. You can also use the calculator to change the policy requirements, trajectory, cost cap, and more, to see how altering Rhode Island’s policy design affects its success.
- 16% of the state’s retail electric sales from must be from renewable sources by 2019, cost cap
- De facto carve-out for solar as part of separate policy
- Implicit ‘cost cap’ defined by compliance payments
Carve-outs can create economic opportunities in the state by introducing new or promising technologies into the market. However, these standards limit the utilities’ ability to substitute between renewable energy sources, potentially increasing the cost of the policy. Rhode Island’s RES does not have any carve-outs. However, the state’s Long-Term Contracting Standard for Renewable Energy (2009) establishes a de facto carve-out for in-state solar (3 MW capacity per utility by 2014). Rules established by Rhode Island’s Public Utilities Commission.
Compare the goal established in the RPS to what is being achieved.
The following chart compares the variety of sources currently used to generate Rhode island’s electricity. The color of each bar is indicative of the carbon intensity of each source.
Cost Cap Details
Rhode Island does not have an explicit cost cap. However, by allowing alternative compliance payments (ACPs), Rhode Island sets an effective cap on the premium a utility will be willing to pay for renewable energy. The RPS sets this cap at $50/MWh. This price was set in 2003 and, by statute, is adjusted annually by the consumer price index. In 2014, the cost of an ACP is $63.80. If the renewable energy premium exceeds this cap, the utility would prefer to meet the standard by making the lower cost alternative compliance payments. Using the RPS Feasibility Calculator you can make adjustments to cost of alternative compliance, determining how this impacts the provision of renewable power and the overall viability of the RPS.
Historic retail prices (¢ / kWh)
The above chart presents historical data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on the price at which residential customers can purchase electricity. Typically, states set explicit cost caps relative to the retail price (as opposed to the lower wholesale price).
Established in 2004, with compliance required beginning in 2007, Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Standard requires that all obligated utilities procure 16% of retail electric sales from renewable sources by 2020. The maximum amount of existing renewable resources that can be applied to compliance with the standard is capped at 2.0% of total retail sales. This law is administered by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission. In a seperate 2009 law (Long-term Contracting Standard for Renewable Energy) electric distribution companies will be required to enter into long-term contracts with new renewable energy facilities totaling 90 MW of capacity by 2014 (of which 3 MW must be from in-state solar).
RPS Technical Details
|Eligible Technologies||Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Hydroelectric, Geothermal Electric, Anaerobic Digestion, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal, Biodiesel, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels|
|Geographic Eligibility||All credits must be generated within or delivered into the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL) Control Area|
|Percent of Total Load||99.3%|
|Sectors||Investor-Owned Utility, Retail Supplier|
|Penalty||Alternative compliance payment (ACPs) of $50 2003 dollars adjusted by the consumer price index (currently $63.80) per MWh of renewable energy obligation|
Tools and other links
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) RPS data page—Datasets available for download in .xlsx format
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Energy Analysis Portal—Resources on renewable energy policies, and interactive web tools
- Energy Information Administration (EIA) U.S. Energy Mapping System—An interactive energy resource map with a myriad of data layers to explore
- DSIRE State RPS Page—Visit for detailed information on RPS and complete legislation