Rhode Island received $ 8.5 million in September from the sale of emission permits as a result of its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program that includes 11 northeastern states.
RGGI, often pronounced âReggie,â is a coalition of states cooperating to set regional limits for CO2 emissions. Companies in these states can purchase pre-defined emission allowances from a limited pool of permits in quarterly auctions. According to the Rhode Island Energy Resources Board website, RGGI is “the country’s first mandatory cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”
The program helps move the region towards decarbonization by gradually lowering the regional emissions cap “so that CO2 emissions decrease in a planned and predictable way,” according to Robert Beadle, communications manager for the RIOER.
The auction proceeds are widely used to fund various green initiatives. RIOER most recently proposed allocation plan recommends that funds be used to make Rhode Island State government facilities more energy efficient, improve lighting technology in municipal and public school buildings, and support clean energy in the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority system , among other initiatives.
Beadle said RGGI is “successfully reducing carbon pollution” in the state. “During RGGI’s first four monitoring periods (from 2009 to 2020), the states that participated during this period saw a 53% reduction in carbon emissions from the electricity sector,” he said. written in a joint email from RIOER and the Department of Environmental Management to the Herald.
He explained that the program “is a contributing but not unique factor in helping to reduce emissions from the electricity sector”, adding that “continued regional investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, storage, demand response and other measures “would continue to be crucial in the decarbonization of the state.
Beadle added that from the founding of RGGI in 2009 until 2019, auction proceeds allowed participating states to invest $ 2.8 billion “in” energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy and other strategic programs â.
J. Timmons Roberts, professor of environment, society and sociology, wrote in an email to the Herald that RGGI is a good start but needs to be strengthened and that market approaches are not enough to tackle climate change .
âRGGI has successfully shown that emissions trading is not the end of the world,â he wrote. “In fact, he has raised billions over the years that have been invested in great things like energy efficiency and some renewables in the region.”
While he believes that spending the auction proceeds had clear benefits, Timmons Roberts noted that it is unclear how much regional caps have actually reduced emissions due to the transition from production to electricity from coal and petroleum to natural gas, which took place in the state during the same period. âIt certainly didn’t hurt, but it’s hard to know how much it helped,â he wrote.
Timmons Roberts added that current and past show prices were “way, way too low”.
“Above auction history, the price (of emission permits) remained around 5 to 7 dollars per tonne of carbon, well below what was thought necessary to encourage companies and families to invest to save energy â, he wrote. “It’s like 5 cents a gallon of gasoline.”
Timmons Roberts added that more was needed to deal with the climate crisis. âShould we (RGGI) be eliminated? No. Should it be reinforced? Yes. Is it sufficient? NO.”
In addition to market-based approaches like cap-and-trade and carbon tax, he wrote that âstrict efficiency standards (and) massive investments / incentives in renewable energyâ are needed to achieve the goal of 100% renewable electricity in Rhode Island by 2030. outlined in a 2020 decree published by former Governor Gina Raimondo.
Alana O’Hare, press secretary in the governor’s office, wrote in an email to the Herald that RGGI is an important part of the Ocean State’s existing climate action plan. âRhode Island has already implemented a series of clean energy programs, including renewable energy initiatives (and) leading energy efficiency programs,â as well as RGGI, O’Hare wrote.
She added that RGGI “provides a model for other emission reduction efforts elsewhere in the economy,” such as the Transportation Climate Initiative, a similar coalition of northeastern states that includes Rhode Island. The TCI “seeks to improve transport, develop the clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transport sector,” according to their report. website.
In addition to RGGI, she writes, the recent adoption of the climate law further strengthens the state climate plan. The legislation, which was signed by Governor Dan McKee in April, deepens emissions targets from a previous law from 2014 and demands that the state achieve net zero emissions by 2050, with the target of an 80% reduction from to 1990 levels by 2040.
O’Hare wrote that the passage of the law represents “a bold commitment to reduce climate emissions and improve our economy and our public health.”
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