Rhode Island Backs Small Hydro, Increases Renewable Energy Goal to 20%

September 11, 2006

Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri announced financial and technical support for several small hydropower projects on September 8. Carcieri made the announcement while standing in front of the Harris Mill Dam on the Pawtuxet River in Coventry in the western part of the state. When it begins operation in 2007, the dam will generate more than 10 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year.

The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources is providing the developer of the Harris Mill project with a low-interest loan worth $500,000 from the R.I. Renewable Energy Fund. The fund will also receive an additional $0.02 per kWh from the sale of renewable energy certificates. In addition, Pawtuxet River Authority will also receive $0.02 per kWh from the sale of renewable energy certificates. Rhode Island power providers use these certificates to certify compliance with the state's renewable portfolio standard.

Carcieri said at the press conference, "While we may not have the reserves of oil and natural gas that many states have, we are blessed with rivers and the ocean, and we need to put those natural resources to work for us." He said the R.I. Office of Energy Resources has identified sites with more than 10 megawatts (MW) of potential hydroelectric capacity. Rhode Island Chief Energy Advisor Andrew Dzykewicz said that the Harris Mill project will lower the state's electricity rate by $0.01 per kWh. The R.I. Office of Energy Resources also manages the State Energy Program in Rhode Island.

The energy office also has the following hydroelectric projects under way:

  • Feasibility study for a hydroelectric turbine at the Royal Mills complex in Coventry. That turbine is on order.
  • Renovation of the American Tourister Mill that involves studying the feasibility of installing river turbines to capture the energy in the tidal flow of the Palmer River.
  • Test sites for a pilot project undertaken by an Australian company that is commercializing wave energy technology. The pilot will be located just south of the Point Judith breakwater.

For more information, see the governor's September 8 press release.

With the added capacity these hydropower projects and new wind projects currently under construction bring to the Maine power grid, Carcieri said the state could increase its renewable energy goal to 20% by 2011. This proposal is an increase from the 15% by 2016 that the governor announced in January. The Governor also called for increasing the state’s renewable energy standard from the 16% that it must achieve by 2019 to 20% by 2014. The renewable energy standard is a mandatory target for the state's electricity providers, and it would require action by the Maine Legislature.