January 15, 20200

There are various programs available to electricity consumers in Rhode Island that provide incentives and cost savings. These programs have value to people and businesses who otherwise would not have access to renewable energy because of property constraints. As an energy lawyer, I am familiar with the state-created opportunities for both small-scale and larger solar programs and the assistance to property owners in lowering their electric bills. The state also offers grants for renewable energy that cover 25-30% percent of renewable energy project installation costs.

What is the Renewable Energy Fund?

In Rhode Island, there is a Renewable Energy Fund (REF) Grant Program which translates to a 20%-30% subsidy. The REF provides funding for renewable energy projects which can produce electricity in a cleaner, more sustainable manner. An energy lawyer can review a project to determine whether it’s eligible for funding under the REF program.

Another goal of the REF program is to bolster job growth in the state and to promote green technology and the energy industry. The grant money comes from the “system benefit charge” on consumers’ electric bills and from alternative compliance payments issued by retail electricity providers. The REF covers small scale, commercial scale, and community solar projects.

What is a Community Solar Project?

Lately, the concept of a community solar project has become popular. This is based on the state’s promotion of these projects, energy lawyer and consumer education on availability. Generally, a community solar project is defined as a commercial scale solar farm whose power is shared by more than one household. Even if a household cannot install solar panels on their roof or property, members of a community can still share the benefits of solar power. This is a benefit because solar power costs less than the price ordinarily paid for electricity.

In my practice as an energy lawyer, I am asked to review community solar contracts. These types of requests are recent, which is due to the state’s community solar efforts in 2019. Community solar project contracts can be executed by a few different parties, depending on the stage of the project and on the type of project. For example, community solar project contracts can include renters, homeowners, municipalities, and non-profit organizations.

What is the Renewable Energy Growth Program?

In Rhode Island, National Grid administers the Renewable Energy Growth (REG) Program. This program furthers development of distributed generation projects sited in the state. An experienced energy lawyer can tell you about the projects eligible for the REG Program, like wind, solar, hydropower, and anaerobic digestion. The REG Program allows project developers to sell power under the terms of long-term tariffs at fixed prices.

In order to qualify for the REG Program, the solar project must be of 25 kW or less in size, located in the state, connected to the utility’s distribution system, and in operation within 2 years of Certificate of Eligibility issuance by the utility.  These requirements are customarily reviewed by an energy lawyer as part of a project’s due diligence process.

Another element of a solar project under the REG Program requires that a project cannot be segmented into other projects. In the event of a project being divided into multiple projects, the utility will issue a Certificate of Eligibility for only one of the projects.

Further, projects cannot be in operation or under construction at the time the applicant applies for its Certificate of Eligibility, with the exception for site work less than 25% of the total project cost. Applicants under the REG Program must also have control of the property that the project is sited on.

If you are looking for an experienced energy lawyer, you need Desautel Browning Law on your side. Call us today at 401.477.0023 to speak to one of our knowledgeable attorneys about your project.

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