Last week, People’s Power & Light, a non-profit organization working to make energy more affordable and environmentally sustainable, held its 15th Celebration and Annual Meeting. It was the second time within a week that Rhode Island’s environmental community heard about Governor Gina Raimondo’s strategic goal: a gigawatt of renewable electric power in Rhode Island by 2020. This see that this would be a game changer, keep in mind that in Rhode Island we use—averaged over a year—about 2 gigawatts of electric power.
In December of 2015, Raimondo issued her Lead by Example Executive Order. Part of this was to:
Procure 100 percent of state government electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2025.
Commissioner Carol Grant of the Office of Energy Resources was present at the People’s Power and Light event to promote the governor’s green gigawatt goal. Grant admitted that her office had no idea of how it would be realized, but she assured her audience that if this governor had a plan, she would make it happen. Let’s hope she is correct!
As the shift in target dates of the plans mentioned above clearly shows, the governor is aware of the need to make haste with going green. That’s excellent news. Unfortunately, the energy policy of the Raimondo administration is plagued by inconsistencies. Two years ago, Raimondo put out a press release stating:
I am committed to moving ahead with cost-effective, regional energy infrastructure projects—including expansion of natural gas capacity—that will improve our business climate and create new opportunities for Ocean State workers.
She also welcomed CEO Michael Polsky of Invenergy and his plan to build a gigawatt fossil-fuel-fired power plant in Burrillville. As RIPR reported in July of last year:
Gov. Gina Raimondo joined Polsky to thank him for investing in Rhode Island.
“I know you have choices about where you could be and I’m pleased you’ve chosen Rhode Island and you should know we are going to make sure that you are successful here,” said the governor.
Seven months earlier, Polsky donated a $1,000 to the governor, the maximum annual legal limit from an individual to a political candidate.
Yes, Raimondo said about the Burrillville power plant: “If there are issues, then the plant won’t go forward,” but she has not withdrawn her support for the misguided idea that fracked gas is a bridge fuel that will help us get off fossil fuels.
Trying to build a green power sector while expanding the fracked gas infrastructure is a very bad idea. There is research to back up this common-sense claim, as discussed in detail in an old post Capitalism = Climate Chaos.
Raimondo is correct; haste in going green is imperative. The accelerating melting of arctic ice will have a profound impact on the future of the planet. That really is the key “issue.” It is consistent with one and only one approach to the fracked-gas infrastructure, namely fixing its leaks and phasing it out. For more about this read Leaked Natural Gas was Enough to Heat 190,000 Homes.
The critical “issue” here is climate tipping points. Film maker Steven Smith of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society and Diana Kushner of the Enduring Ice Project see it this way:
SMITH: The sense that the population as a whole has is that climate change is coming and it’s creeping in. Right? Creeping in. We’ve got glaciers melting down; we’ve got sea level creeping up, as an example. But actually, when sea ice melts, it’s light switch, it’s a light switch on climate. It’s no longer a creep. It means that we’ve gone from this 93% of the incoming solar rays going back to space to suddenly the reverse: it’s all going to the earth-climate system.†
KUSHNER: The ice is for every single person on the planet, indigenous and non-indigenous, front-line and not-front-line. And, of course, the closer you are to living on the margins of society the more you will feel that effect.
† Quick Facts on Arctic Sea Ice has numbers that are slightly different: “Instead of reflecting 80 percent of the sunlight, the ocean absorbs 90 percent of the sunlight.”