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Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources to Work with 4 Other New England States and Clean Energy States Alliance to Reduce Solar Costs

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Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced today Rhode Island's participation in a regional effort called the New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership, which will target non-hardware "soft" costs of photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity systems and increase coordination throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), a national nonprofit organization that works with state leaders, federal agencies, industry players, and other stakeholders to promote renewables and energy efficiency, will coordinate the initiative, which has been awarded $1.5 million under the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge II program.

The Rooftop Solar Challenge II incentivizes teams to make it easier and more affordable for Americans to go solar through competitively awarded funding. By streamlining permit processes, updating planning and zoning codes, improving standards for connecting solar power to the electric grid, and increasing access to financing, teams will clear a path for rapid expansion of solar energy and serve as models for other communities across the nation. The Rooftop Solar Challenge II is part of the SunShot Initiative, which strives to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.

The New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership will help strengthen the solar market in the five-state region with 13 million residents. The partnership will refine and deploy innovations developed in Connecticut and Massachusetts for DOE's Rooftop Solar Challenge I and will more widely implement solar best practices from around the region.

Through this award, which Senator Sheldon Whitehouse played a key role in securing, the Rhode Island Department of Administration's Office of Energy Resources will collaborate with agencies from the four other states to tackle a range of barriers to PV deployment, including permitting and interconnection challenges; the need for new financing tools; and planning and zoning rule variations. Some of the states will also work to promote model solar zoning and implement "Solarize" group purchasing programs.

"Regional clean energy initiatives are vital in playing a role in generating in-state job growth and helping to promote carbon-free local, renewable sources of energy," Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. "This project paves the way for an affordable solar market in Rhode Island and sends a message beyond our borders that our state cares about the environment."

Members of the Rhode Island federal delegation who helped garner support for the U.S. Department of Energy funds expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to move Rhode Island's solar market forward.

"I congratulate the Clean Energy States Alliance on securing this federal grant that will help Rhode Island and other states find innovative solutions to reduce solar energy costs," said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that oversees funding for the U.S. Department of Energy. "Diversifying Rhode Island's energy supply is a smart investment to help boost jobs and protect our environment."

"This grant will help Rhode Island continue to lead in the clean energy economy of the future," Senator Whitehouse said. "I have been pressing to streamline the State's permitting process, to promote the use of solar power in Rhode Island, which in turn could protect our environment and create jobs for Rhode Island workers. I am proud to announce this grant to help our region achieve those goals."

"This grant is a big win for Rhode Island. As we bolster a growing market for clean, renewable energy, we can create much-needed jobs in a sector that promises continued growth," Congressman Jim Langevin said. "Making it more affordable to generate solar electricity will encourage commercial and residential property owners to utilize clean energy, and will position Rhode Island to emerge as a leader in green industries."

"Investing in clean, renewable sources of energy is one of the most effective ways to create jobs now and position Rhode Island to compete in a 21st century economy," Congressman David Cicilline said. "I am pleased that our federal delegation was able to help secure this new source of federal funding, and I look forward to working further to ensure that every level of government supports alternative energy research and development here in Rhode Island."

"Information sharing among the states and better understanding of the needs of stakeholders will help us identify efficiencies, potential collaborative activities, and opportunities for reducing soft costs," Warren Leon, Executive Director of CESA, said. "These states are all committed to the common goals of reducing the cost of solar electricity and building a strong regional market. We are excited to be partnering with them for this project."

As the lead agency for Rhode Island's involvement with the project, the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources will work closely with other state agencies, municipal officials, and members of the solar industry to identify key barriers and areas of opportunity to reduce solar soft costs in the Ocean State. The Office will partner with stakeholders to develop, distribute, and help adopt model zoning and permitting processes, while also collaborating with neighboring jurisdictions to leverage best practices and lessons learned.

In addition to the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, the lead state agencies for this project are the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (MA DOER), the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning (NH OEP), and the Vermont Public Service Department (VT PSD).

Thirteen municipalities have already agreed to participate actively in the project:

* The City of Bridgeport, CT * The City of Middletown, CT * The Town of Manchester, CT * The City of Boston, MA * The City of Cambridge, MA * The Town of Winchester, MA * The City of Berlin, NH * The City of Concord, NH * The City of Keene, NH * The City of Nashua, NH * The City of Providence, RI * The Town of Richmond, RI * The City of Burlington, VT

To learn more about the New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership or the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources' other projects to promote clean energy deployment, contact Danny Musher at 401-574-9112 or danny.musher@energy.ri.gov.

See the following below: * Infographic on first round of RSC and blog post * Interactive map of RSC II teams and pop impact * Rooftop Solar Challenge website

About the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources: The Office of Energy Resources works closely with private and public stakeholders to increase the reliability and security of our energy supply, reduce energy costs and mitigate against price volatility, and improve environmental quality. Rhode Islanders spend over $3 billion per year on energy to light their homes, keep the heat on, and fuel their vehicles. Fossil fuels such as natural gas, fuel oil, and gasoline supply the vast majority of these energy needs. By recommending and implementing smart energy policies, such as those that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, the Office of Energy Resources helps reduce Rhode Island's dependence on these out-of-state fuels, while simultaneously advancing our State as a national leader in the new clean energy economy. For more information, visit www.energy.ri.gov.

About the Clean Energy States Alliance: CESA is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state and local efforts to implement smart clean energy policies, programs, technology innovation, and financing tools to drive increased investment and market making. CESA works with the leading state and public clean energy programs and provides information and technical assistance to states and local governments on "best in class" clean energy programs and policies. CESA facilitates collaborative efforts among states, federal agencies, and other stakeholders to accelerate progress on deploying clean energy. For more information, visit www.cleanenergystates.org.


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