Rhode Island recently implemented a number of initiatives to help increase renewable energy generation in the state. These initiatives support Rhode Island’s goal of supplying 14.5% of its retail electricity sales from renewable energy by 2019. High electricity costs and strong incentive programs make going solar a very attractive financial option for businesses in Rhode Island. Listed below are some of the state specific incentives that supplement the overarching federal solar incentives.
Renewable Energy Growth Program (RE Growth)
Last year the state launched RE Growth, a performance-based incentive with a goal of installing 160 MW of distributed renewable energy over a period of 5 years (2015 – 2019). The Program allows customers to sell their generation output to utilities under long term tariffs at fixed prices. There are three two-week open enrollment periods spread out across this year when customers have the opportunity to apply to the Program. Systems can be sized up to 5 MW DC, but the tariff has lower ceiling prices for larger systems.
This year RE Growth includes a supplemental program called SolarWise, which provides additional incentives to customers who choose to combine renewable energy installations with significant energy efficiency upgrades. Customers can receive 10% or 20% performance-based incentives on top of what they get from RE Growth depending on the extent of the upgrades. However, in order to qualify for this additional incentive, solar systems have to be sized such that the maximum annual kilowatt-hour (kWh) output is not greater than the 3-year historic annual average electric kWh usage at the customer's location minus the energy savings from energy efficiency measure.
Similar to many other states, Rhode Island has a net-metering program that allows businesses to offset their electricity usage and charges by sending solar energy to the grid. Net-metered installations are sized not to exceed the 3-year average on-site load and 5MW AC aggregate generating capacity limit. The rate credited for kWh generated that do not exceed the customer’s consumption for the billing period is the utility’s retail rate minus a small conservation charge per kWh. The systems are allowed to generate up to 125% of the electricity consumed on-site, and can either receive a credit to their future utility bills, or the utility can choose to purchase the excess credit. Excess renewable energy credits generated from electricity consumption above 100%, but limited to 125% of the customer’s onsite usage during the billing period, are typically credited or paid at the utilities avoided cost (or wholesale) rate, unless the utility and customer have agreed to a different plan.
Renewable Energy Fund
Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Fund (REF) provides grants and loans for both preliminary feasibility studies and the direct installation of solar projects. Grants are awarded based on the DC capacity of a renewable energy project and are capped at $350,000 for a single project. The program is administered by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation with assistance from the Office of Energy Resources and financed by utility customers through a surcharge on electric bills. While REF projects can be net metered, they cannot be combined with RE Growth.
State Tax Exemptions
Rhode Island has both sales and property tax exemptions for solar systems. Under the sales tax exemption solar equipment including solar electric systems, inverters for the systems, and mounting and ballast equipment are exempt from sales tax. The sales tax exemption is statewide, whereas the property tax exemption is determined by local municipalities.
Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE)
The C-PACE financing program was launched in Rhode Island in April 2016. C-PACE programs have already been successfully implemented in other states throughout the country, and allow building owners to finance up to 100% of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other qualifying upgrades through private capital providers at competitive rates. The C-PACE loans are repaid over the financing period (generally up to 25 years) through a special assessment (similar to a sewer assessment) paid at the same time as property taxes. The program makes solar energy investments more affordable for building owners because the annual energy savings from the upgrade are typically higher than the annual C-PACE assessment. Furthermore, if a building is sold during the financing period, the assessment automatically transfers to the next owner, thus lowering the risk and associated cost of capital of the project. The C-PACE program is administered by Sustainable Real Estate Solutions and sponsored by the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank.
To learn more about how these programs can add value to your business in Rhode Island, please feel free to e-mail EnterSolar at email@example.com or call us at 888-225-0270.