Rhode Island highlights problems with public funds for energy efficiency

Paul Roselli writes on the RI Future website about the decision to remove some of the budget for energy efficiency because the state lost money from removing the car tax from state income. This is quite worrying. Do you know of other such examples?


Energy efficiency fund raided to balance budget: $12.5 million of public trust eroded

As House and Senate start the process of approving the State of Rhode Island 2018 budget proposed by House and Senate leadership and the Governor. In this budget is a movement to take $12.5 million from the energy efficiency fund and place it in the state’s general fund to offset the money lost from removing the car tax from state income.

The energy efficiency fund is money rate payers pay – that is you and I – on every monthly electric bill for energy home improvement projects or services – to reduce the use of fossil fuels, weatherization programs, the purchase of heat pumps, solar and wind installations and grants to upgrade appliances and equipment.

As a land trust president and a rate payer for electricity from NationalGrid. I have to strongly disagree with this decision to raid the energy efficiency fund to be placed in the general fund to pay for paper clips, office equipment and FedEx shipping.

Now from the outset, there may not seem to be a connection between diverting energy efficiency funds to other state programs and a land trust mission of protecting and preserving land. And you would be correct. There is no direct connection. But I believe, that if this transfer is allowed to go through then other state programs are up for grabs: the carbon tax (if that legislation passes), the open space bond monies, other federal, state and local set aside funds for recreation, agriculture, mitigation, habitat improvement and more.

Also the trust between local agencies, non profits like our own, the general public and the state will be further eroded if this transfer takes place.

“Rhode Island’s energy efficiency programs generate immense economic value for the state,” so says folks from People’s Power and Light, Acadia Center, Burrillville Land Trust, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Environment Council of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Association of Conservation Commissions, the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone and many more who signed a letter asking that the state budget be amended to delete the raid on the energy efficiency fund. The use of these funds bring millions of dollars in electricity and natural gas bill savings to the State’s residents and businesses, drive our growing clean energy economy, help low-income families reduce the difficult burden of high energy costs, and protect the health and prosperity of our local communities. Rhode Island’s Least Cost Procurement law – first implemented a decade ago and extended another five years in 2015 – is primarily responsible for the state’s continued leadership on economic efficiency, says People’s Power & Light. The General Assembly has unanimously recognized that the electric and natural gas distribution utility must invest in the lowest cost energy resource, energy efficiency, before more expensive energy supplies from outside Rhode Island. This is an economic strategy, not a social benefits program. It is a program that also sits well with every ratepayer.

A cut of $12.5 million from the state’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs will hinder growth and significantly impact savings for residents and businesses. We all put into the fund with the hope and promise of lower energy bills for all Rhode Islanders. Energy efficiency is Rhode Island’s “first fuel” and its lowest-cost energy resource. By prioritizing it through smart energy policy, Rhode Island has reduced total energy costs for all residents and businesses by millions of dollars, mitigated the adverse impact of fuel and electricity price increases, helped avoid unnecessary transmission and production infrastructure, and built a more affordable, reliable and cleaner energy system for all consumers. Undermining this superior, productive investment presumably for the shortsighted purpose of filling an unrelated state budget hole will set Rhode Island’s clean energy economy back, and we cannot afford that.

As a rate payer, I can’t afford that either.

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