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State creates blueprint to modernize Rhode Island's electric grid and control long-term costs for ratepayers

PROVIDENCE, R.I. The Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC), Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and Office of Energy Resources (OER) today released a comprehensive blueprint to modernize the state's electric grid, which will control the long-term costs of energy, foster customer participation and choice, and enable the efficient integration of clean energy technologies.

The report, Rhode Island Power Sector Transformation, was submitted in response to Governor Gina M. Raimondo's call for innovative strategies to advance a cleaner, more affordable and reliable energy system for the 21st Century. It includes recommendations for action over the next year to provide more value to customers through a new regulatory framework and strengthen grid flexibility and resiliency.

"The electric grid was built for a world when electricity only flowed one-way, from the utility to customers," said Macky McCleary, administrator of the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers. "Today, with the addition of renewable energy systems throughout the grid, that electricity flows both ways. This presents a huge opportunity for us to rethink how we regulate and incentivize grid improvements, while giving consumers more control over their energy choices and usage."

Rhode Island Power Sector Transformation provides the blueprint for a new regulatory framework that will help the state's electric system evolve and adapt to modern consumer demands and technologies. The recommendations are based on a seven-month process which engaged more than 200 people and 65 organizations, including local residents, businesses, municipalities, non-profits, and national experts, who provided input on draft proposals.

The report addresses five major areas where innovation could drive the future of the grid:

Control the long-term costs of the electric system - Today's electric grid is built for peak stress, such as the hottest days of summer. In the past, greater energy use caused greater stress, which required spending to build a stronger system. New technology provides more ways to meet Rhode Island's energy demands while controlling stress to "right-size" the system to customers' needs.

Give customers more energy choices - Allow customers to use technologies such as battery storage, solar and energy management services and to control their energy budgets.

Build a flexible grid to integrate more clean energy generation - Strengthen energy resource diversity at the local level, helping the state meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and Governor Raimondo's goal of making our energy resources 10-times cleaner by 2020.

Pay for Performance - Connect utility earnings with performance outcomes that will control system costs.

Increase grid reliability and resiliency - Strategic investments in new technologies that will help the utility shorten the length of power outages by instantly communicating the scope and location of faults so they may be fixed more quickly.

"Transforming Rhode Island's electric grid will be a complex undertaking, but the recommendations in this report are a critical first step to help guide the utility, regulators and stakeholders toward a cleaner, more reliable and affordable energy system," said State Energy Commissioner Carol Grant. "Few states in the nation have progressed as far in this work as Rhode Island has. While we have more work ahead of us, I am confident that the strategies outlined in this report can advance the economic, energy and environmental interests of our state. Power sector transformation in Rhode Island could really be a game changer for how we look at and interact with the grid of the future."

The State will work to advance these recommendations through formal docketed proceedings before the Public Utilities Commission.

The full report may be downloaded at http://www.ripuc.org/utilityinfo/electric/PST_home.html.

Public comments are welcome and may be submitted by e-mail to: DPUC.powertransformation@dpuc.ri.gov.

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