Following our client alert several days ago concerning the Rhode Island General Assembly’s consideration of legislation designed to streamline the approval process for renewable energy projects, we can report that the governor has signed into law one of the bills creating uniform statewide solar permitting. The legislation authorizes the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) to develop a statewide solar application process for obtaining a single permit for both building and electrical. Sometime after July 4, 2017, OER will contact stakeholders with the schedule to implement this new law. The likely beneficiaries of the law will be companies that install a high volume of residential solar energy systems.
It is important to note, however, that this legislation does not affect zoning board approval and development plan review that often present more onerous processes for developers of larger ground-mounted solar installations. As noted in our earlier alert, legislation is still under consideration that would substantially streamline the zoning and planning review. This legislation is unlikely to be passed this session and the battle lines are already being drawn over whether control of these types of zoning and planning decisions should be addressed at the state level.