R.I. department unveils $17M for efficiency, renewables

Source: Benjamin Hulac, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, August 15, 2016

The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, a quasi-public agency, said yesterday it will provide $17.2 million in financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects across the state.

The money will go to six cities in Rhode Island — Cranston, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick and Westerly — officials said.

“This isn’t just about environmental investment,” RIIB CEO Jeff Diehl said. “It’s good business sense as well as it’s good for the environment.”

The funding will help update schools, firehouses and other municipal buildings statewide. Diehl expects the projects to be funded and completed within the next few months.

Diehl, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and Treasurer Seth Magaziner (D) announced the rollout of the funding yesterday afternoon at City Hall in Pawtucket.

In Pawtucket, the funding will be used to install LED lighting in streetlamps and for the installation of energy-saving appliances such as boilers, windows, residential lighting and programmable thermostats, according to Magaziner’s office.

Rhode Island is one of a handful of states where local officials are combining private money with public funds to shore up public works while considering climate change effects, too. Diehl mentioned a focus on financing projects with porous asphalt, which allows runoff to disperse quickly.

California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York and Montgomery County, Md., operate “green banks” — public-private institutions that finance environmental projects, often with an eye to how climate change threatens their communities.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who represents Montgomery County, introduced a bill last month to found a national green bank (Greenwire, July 21).

The RIIB serves in a similar capacity to green banks in Connecticut, New York and elsewhere.

On the campaign trail in 2014, Raimondo unveiled plans to establish a green bank for Rhode Island. Yesterday, she framed the round of financing as economically savvy.

“The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank is putting Rhode Islanders back to work, strengthening our infrastructure and reducing our demand for energy by providing a dependable source of capital,” Raimondo said in a statement.

According to Magaziner’s office, the financing will save taxpayers more than $20 million in energy costs.

The cities receiving the money hired third-party engineers to examine their buildings for energy consumption, Diehl said, adding that the projects will lead to 35 percent energy savings overall.