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Monday, November 3, 2014

Peter Rothstein: R.I.’s next governor should back clean energy

As you think about the upcoming elections, not just in RI, please consider a candidate's commitment to green energy and building a local green economy.  We think this should be a major factor in your consideration of their qualifications to hold office and lead us to a better future.

This article gives insight and overview of such an evaluation.  Our thanks to Charity at the New England Clean Energy Council for sending the piece along.

BOSTON
With campaign season in full swing and the election less than two weeks away, one topic that is a clear priority for both candidates for Rhode Island’s next governor is job growth and workforce development. As the next governor looks toward emerging sectors that can be further cultivated, he or she needs to look no further than Rhode Island’s growing clean-energy industry, which is already responsible for thousands of new jobs in the Ocean State.
One example of this growth is Aspen Aerogels, an energy technology company that specializes in high-performance insulation products and is investing $30 million to expand its Rhode Island-based manufacturing facility. Situated in a former abandoned factory on East Providence’s waterfront, this expansion will create jobs for local contractors, steel workers, concrete workers and machine operators, along with new full-time positions to support the company’s mission to provide its customers with innovative energy efficiency products. In order to attract more companies such as Aspen Aerogels, it is critical that Rhode Island develop an advanced workforce that will be ready to support the needs of clean energy and emerging technology industries.
If the next governor commits to growing the clean energy industry, not only will it bring jobs to Rhode Island, but it will also create cleaner and cheaper energy sources for its residents. In Massachusetts, a recent report from the state’s Clean Energy Center found that the commonwealth’s clean energy industry achieved double-digit growth for the third straight year and now includes 88,372 employees and 5,985 businesses.
Rhode Island could build on a job creation model similar to this by investing in resources available here in the Ocean State. Rhode Island has a great opportunity to incentivize research and development of newer, more efficient clean technologies, which would bring both high-tech and manufacturing jobs to the state. By doing so, the state would be able to employ blue- and white-collar workers with a wide range of talent and a variety of skill sets.
Nearly 98 percent of Rhode Island’s power derives from natural gas, and having such a deep reliance upon one source of power exposes the state to future reliability and demand challenges.
With New England poised for another winter and volatile energy prices, it is clear that finding immediate solutions to address this problem is a challenge that the next governor will face. Rhode Island’s next governor and state leaders must work to decrease the reliance on one source of energy while developing a plan to better integrate local and regional alternative energy resources.
Rhode Island is heading in the right direction with a flurry of energy legislation being passed by the General Assembly and Gov. Lincoln Chafee during the latest legislative session.
Along the Atlantic coast lies a massive, world-class wind energy resource, which has significant electricity generation potential if harnessed and would position Rhode Island as a leader in offshore wind. In addition to new sources of generation, Rhode Island has shown foresight by pursuing an aggressive energy efficiency agenda that has significantly reduced the amount of power consumed in the state. As a result, Rhode Island ranks sixth in the nation for its energy efficiency measures.
The policies set by the next governor and state leaders over the next four years are critical to securing the state’s path to a future where clean, renewable energy provides Rhode Island with more reliable, cheaper and cleaner energy choices. By embracing and expanding the state’s clean energy policies to support the sector’s continued growth, the next governor would help grow Rhode Island’s economy by attracting companies such as Aspen Aerogels to invest and bring new jobs to the state while charting a path for a cleaner and more prosperous future.
Peter Rothstein is president of the New England Clean Energy Council, an industry group.

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