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Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island is the first offshore wind farm in the United States. Photo by Gary Norton, U.S. Department of Energy

Clean Power

Rhode Island Passes Soonest 100% Renewable Electricity Commitment in USA

Rhode Island is the latest state that has committed to 100% renewable electricity. Earlier this week, Governor Daniel McKee made it official by signing the bill into law that commits Rhode Island to get 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources no later than 2033.

In fact, that commitment means Rhode Island has the committed to getting to 100% renewable electricity faster than any other state. Adding in newbie Rhode Island, 10 states have 100% clean or renewable energy commitments for the electricity sector. Work is underway at 10 other states to set 100% renewable energy commitments as well.

Solar power is going to be a big part of any 100% renewable energy commitment, but something that surely gave Rhode Island a big boost of steady, clean power is the Block Island Wind Farm, the first commercial offshore wind power project in the United States. More offshore wind power could make a big difference in the decade to come as well. “Rhode Island’s offshore winds are powerful enough to produce eight times the amount of electricity demanded by the state’s people and buildings,” Environment California commented. (Why California is chiming in, I don’t know — but I like it.) Rhode Island is nicknamed the “Ocean State,” so it’s only apt for the little state to get more power from ocean winds.

“In advance of Rhode Island’s decision to commit to 100% renewable, Former RIPIRG Advocate Kate Canada sent [Environment California] a photo of this campaign brochure from 2014, when RIPIRG was campaigning for a renewable portfolio standard in the state.”

Photo credit: Environment California staff

Hard work and the long game can pay off.

“In January 2020, then-Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order with a goal of 100% renewable energy in the electricity sector and In the 2021 legislative session, legislation to codify that goal failed to pass both legislative chambers. This year, it passed.”

Ah, here we get to California’s role in all of this. “In 2018, Environment California enlisted the support of thousands of engaged citizens, hundreds of organizations, and dozens of lawmakers to win the symbolically named Senate Bill 100, a state-wide commitment to 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045.

“California’s new law set off a wave of climate action in other states. In 2019, New Mexico and Washington signed similar bills into law. By mid-2021, nine states had enacted 100% legislation, including MaineNew YorkVirginiaOregon, and Illinois.

“Now Rhode Island too has joined the 100% club.”

Kudos to Rhode Island for being more ambitious and choosing a much earlier target than 2045. Perhaps California should revisit its commitment now that another nine states have followed their lead and in some cases dramatically improved it.

“In 2018, we set a goal for ourselves of getting 10 states to make a legislative commitment to 100% clean or renewable energy by 2023. At the time it felt like a BHAG — a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, to borrow from business school lingo, designed to stretch the idea of what’s possible,” said Johanna Neumann, Senior Director of Environment America’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy. “The fact that we’ve hit that goal 1 year early suggests that we can be even more ambitious in our goals to repower the world with energy sources that don’t pollute and never run out.”


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