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People around the world are urging national and local governments to take the climate crisis seriously, and Rhode Island cities and towns are no exception.

As a coastal state whose sea level is rising and ocean temperature is warming at a faster pace than most other states, Rhode Islanders are particularly vulnerable and facing the increasing costs of inaction. But our state politics, one might argue, are not too different from our national politics when it comes to the procrastination we see around reducing greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors.

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This void of state leadership on climate continues to inspire citizens to look at near term solutions to accelerate the transition to renewable energy—solutions like community choice aggregation.

Community choice aggregation enables any city or town to go out to bid for a cheaper and cleaner electricity supply on behalf of its residential consumers and small businesses within that municipality while competing with National Grid’s standard offer rate. Communities can use their collective buying power to get ahead of state policy and reduce their dependence on fossil fuel imports.

Rhode Island spends $3 billion on these out-of-state dirty imports—dollars that could stay in state if we’re diversifying our energy sources at a faster pace and investing in more clean energy.

There are communities across the country, including California and in our neighboring state of Massachusetts, that are using the proven model of aggregation as a vehicle to increase local renewable energy sources. These communities are voluntarily choosing to add additional renewable energy sources to their energy supply beyond what is required by state law, thus advancing the demand for new, local clean energy

In Massachusetts, we’re seeing strong case studies of communities who chose to increase their renewable energy significantly while stabilizing their electric supply costs and saving money for their community members.

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In Rhode Island, some communities - Providence, Central Falls, South Kingstown, and Barrington – are strongly considering aggregation in order to stabilize electricity supply costs, exercise energy democracy, and make renewable energy accessible and affordable to everyone.

The power of group buying can play a critical role in the just transition to a low-carbon future, where all consumers can benefit from cleaner energy, with protection and transparency. Data shows that Rhode Island consumers are spending millions of dollars more per year than necessary because competitive suppliers tend to target those who are most vulnerable, often low-income, people of color, and elderly folks, with their misleading sales tactics.

Community choice aggregation could also serve as a vehicle to integrate other clean energy initiatives at the municipal level, like deeper energy efficiency, the integration of electric vehicle infrastructure, and even more renewables in our backyards. It’s time for the cities and towns of Rhode Island to jump onto the community choice aggregation movement. And as with all things, that means the public will have to lead the charge.


Priscilla De La Cruz is the Rhode Island director of the Green Energy Consumers Alliance.