Rhode Island Energy Profile
RESOURCES AND CONSUMPTION
Rhode Island’s energy resources include fuelwood in the south and wind power on and near Block Island, off the State’s Atlantic Coast. The Rhode Island economy is one of the least energy intensive in the Nation, and the State typically ranks last, just behind New York, in per capita energy consumption. Industrial energy consumption is low, and the residential sector is Rhode Island’s leading energy consumer.
Rhode Island’s Port of Providence is a key petroleum products hub for the New England area. Almost all of the transportation and heating fuel products consumed in Rhode Island, eastern Connecticut, and parts of Massachusetts are supplied via marine shipments through this port. A small-capacity petroleum product pipeline runs from Providence to central Massachusetts. Rhode Island is one of a handful of States that require the statewide use of reformulated motor gasoline blended with ethanol.
Rhode Island, along with much of the U.S. Northeast, is vulnerable to distillate fuel oil shortages and price spikes during the winter months due to high demand, as about two-fifths of Rhode Island households use fuel oil as their primary energy source for home heating. In January and February 2000, distillate fuel oil prices rose sharply in the Northeast when extreme winter weather increased demand unexpectedly and hindered the arrival of new supply, as frozen rivers and high winds slowed the docking and unloading of barges and tankers. In July 2000, in order to reduce the risk of future shortages, the President directed the U.S. Department of Energy to establish the Northeast Heating Oil Reserve. The Reserve gives Northeast consumers adequate supplies for about 10 days, the time required for ships to carry heating oil from the Gulf of Mexico to New York Harbor. The Reserve's storage terminals are located in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and Groton and New Haven, Connecticut.
Electric power generators and the residential sector are the State’s largest natural gas consumers. The State’s natural gas is supplied by pipelines from production areas in the U.S. Gulf Coast, and from natural gas storage sites in the Appalachian Basin region, which includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. The majority of the gas is supplied by pipelines entering the State from Connecticut. Rhode Island ships over half of the natural gas it receives to Massachusetts. Like other New England States, Rhode Island has no natural gas storage sites and must rely on the Appalachian Basin storage capacity to supply peak winter demand.
COAL, ELECTRICITY, AND RENEWABLES
Natural gas fuels almost all of Rhode Island’s electricity generation. Rhode Island residential electricity use is low compared with the national average, in part because demand for air-conditioning is low during the mild summer months and relatively few households rely on electricity as their main energy source for home heating. Just over 2 percent of Rhode Island’s total electricity is generated with renewable sources, including hydroelectric power, municipal solid waste, and landfill gas. Rhode Island has potential wind energy generation from offshore wind farms. A 2007 state-sponsored study identified 10 suitable areas for wind farm development and determined that at least 15 percent of Rhode Island’s electricity needs could be met by offshore wind energy generation. A law signed in June 2009 may result in one of the first offshore wind farms in the Nation, off Block Island, by enabling the purchase of long-term renewable energy contracts by the utility National Grid. In June 2005, Rhode Island adopted a renewable portfolio standard that requires State electricity retailers to obtain at least 3 percent of State-sold electricity from renewable sources by December 31, 2006. The requirement for renewable energy purchases could potentially rise to 17 percent by 2020.