Rhode Island Customers Get “SolarWise” Thanks To Forward Thinking Power Sector

Today, utilities face a new set of challenges, including flat energy demand, ambitious clean energy and energy efficiency goals, increased churn, and rising energy costs. In order to address these challenges, innovative utilities are taking advantage of new customer engagement technologies and are looking for additional ways to turn their customers into their greatest assets.

Research has shown that through digital interaction, customers are more likely to engage better with their utilities.

Rhode Island electric customers of National Grid will soon have access to a convenient online tool which will help them to make informed decisions before purchasing solar energy systems for their homes and businesses.

Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has enabled National Grid to offer this service and it will be the first electric utility company in the country to offer its customers a simplified process to research and purchase photovoltaic (PV) equipment and even earn bonus solar incentives based on their energy reductions.

SolarWise Rhode Island programme

The new programme, named SolarWise Rhode Island, falls under National Grid’s 2016 Rhode Island Renewable Energy (RE) Growth Programme and will be launched in May this year.

The RE Growth Programme was developed in accordance with legislation passed in 2014 that supports the development of distributed generation throughout the state. It was put together with consultation from the state Office of Energy Resources and the Rhode Island Distributed Generation Board.

The aim of the legislation is to increase the amount of electricity generated by customer owned equipment by 160MW over a five year period-enough to power 30,000 homes for one year.

“This is another example of Rhode Island leading the nation in the development of innovative programmes that both lower energy bills and provide direct benefits to our environment,” said Timothy F. Horan, president of National Grid in Rhode Island. “The PUC and our state legislators are to be congratulated for their foresight in crafting legislation and approving programmes that can benefit thousands of Rhode Islanders.”

The SolarWise Marketplace

To deliver the SolarWise programme, National Grid is collaborating with EnergySage, an online marketplace for solar, to create the SolarWise Marketplace.

Through this, customers will be able to comparison-shop solar opportunities for their home or business and receive competitive quotes from pre-screened installers. Customers can then evaluate their options to select an installer and solar financing package that best suits their needs.

Both the owners of existing structures and those planning new construction will be able to participate in the programme.

Forward thinking by utility creates a ‘win-win’ scenario

National Grid is the first electric utility company in the nation to collaborate with a solar marketplace to offer customers simplicity, transparency and choice when shopping for solar. At the same time the programme boosts the Rhode Island economy through increased access to local installers and lenders.

“We’re excited to be working with a forward-thinking and innovative utility company,” said Vikram Aggarwal, founder and CEO of EnergySage. “National Grid shares our dedication to proactively helping homeowners better understand the potential of solar energy by providing them with the right information and tools needed to make an educated purchase.”

Says Marion Gold, Commissioner of RI’s Office of Energy Resources: “The programme is consistent with Governor Raimondo’s commitment to lowering energy costs and expanding clean energy in the Ocean State. Through SolarWise RI, Rhode Islanders will have the opportunity to lower their energy bills, take steps to protect the environment and keep more of our energy dollars in state. It’s a win-win.”

Utility awards bonus for energy efficiency

Under the new programme, Rhode Island customers may also be eligible for a bonus solar incentive if they reduce their energy consumption before installing a solar PV system.

To qualify for the SolarWise Bonus, a customer must go through the National Grid Energy Efficiency Programme to have an energy assessment of their home or business.

The assessment will recommend ways in which customers can reduce their energy consumption levels. Depending on the number of energy saving measures a customer takes, they may be eligible for a higher long-term payment for their solar system’s output. The more steps a customer takes to reduce their energy consumption, the greater the solar incentive they can earn.

Innovative programmes like these are putting the consumer in control of their electricity consumption which will in turn, help utilities meet their future goals.

An energy industry made up of informed and proactive customers  will lead to a more sustainable energy system. It will also facilitate the uptake of renewables which is critical to ensuring security of supply as fossil fuels continue to dwindle.

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