Electricity Laws and Incentives in Rhode Island

The list below contains summaries of all Rhode Island laws and incentives related to electricity.

Laws and Regulations

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Tax Exemption Authorization - Warren

The town of Warren may allow excise tax exemptions of up to $100 for qualified AFVs registered in Warren. Qualified vehicles must be primarily fueled with one of the following: an electric motor drawing current from rechargeable batteries or fuel cells; gas produced from biomass, where biomass is defined as any organic material other than oil, natural gas, and coal; liquid, gaseous or solid synthetic fuels produced from coal; or coke or coke gas. (Reference Rhode Island General Laws 44-34-14)

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) and Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Acquisition Requirements

To reduce fuel consumption and pollution emissions, and purchase vehicles that provide the best value on a life cycle cost basis, the state must take the following actions:

  • At least 75% of state motor vehicle acquisitions must be AFVs, and the remaining 25% must be HEVs to the greatest extent possible. By 2025, 25% of state motor vehicle acquisitions must be ZEVs;
  • All new light-duty trucks in the state fleet must achieve a minimum city fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon (mpg) and achieve at least a Low Emission Vehicle certification, and all new passenger vehicles in the state fleet must achieve a minimum city fuel economy of 23 mpg;
  • All state agencies must purchase the most economical, fuel-efficient, and lowest emission vehicles appropriate to meet requirements and discourage the purchase of sport utility vehicles;
  • All state agencies must purchase low rolling resistance tires with superior tread life for state vehicles when possible; and
  • All state vehicles must be maintained according to manufacturer specifications, including specified tire pressures and ratings.
The state must also prepare an annual report to the governor on compliance with these goals. (Reference Executive Order 15-17, 2015, and Executive Order 05-13, 2005)

Electric Drive Vehicle License Plates

The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may issue special vehicle license plates to owners of electric drive vehicles, including those powered in whole or in part by a storage battery. Eligible vehicles include hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and all-electric vehicles registered as electric drive vehicles in the state. For more information, including license plate fee, see the Rhode Island DMV Other Plates website. (Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-3-101)

Electric Transit Bus Pilot and Replacement Program

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is responsible for implementing the RIPTA Zero Emissions Vehicle Program to evaluate electric transit buses to replace retired diesel buses. This program is part of Rhode Island’s Beneficiary Mitigation Plan and is funded by Rhode Island’s portion of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. For more information see the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Volkswagen Settlement website.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Parking Restriction

No person can stop, stand, or park a vehicle in a parking space where there is a EV charging station and signage indicating that parking is for EV charging only, unless the vehicle is connected to the charging equipment. Violations will be subject to a fine of $85. (Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-21-18 and 31-41.1-4)

Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Development Support

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation, along with the Division of Motor Vehicles and the Office of Energy Resources, published a statewide public electric vehicle (EV) charging station plan in December 2021. The plan outlines needs, opportunities, and recommendations for expanding EVSE infrastructure in Rhode Island. Recommendations include:

  • Invest in incentive programs for EVs and EV charging stations;
  • Increase equity considerations in EV and EV charging station programs;
  • Increase electrification of transit and school busses and other medium- and heavy-duty vehicles;
  • Conduct an analysis on how transportation electrification will impact transportation revenue;
  • Support the decarbonization of electricity;
  • Develop a clean transportation dashboard to track electrification progress; and,
  • Lead by example through state agency action.

(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-3.3-1)

Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Deployment Support

California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington (signatory states) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to support the deployment of medium- and heavy-duty ZEVs through involvement in a Multi-State ZEV Task Force (Task Force).

By January 2021, the Task Force will develop a multi-state action plan to support electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The Task Force will consider actions to accomplish the goals of the MOU, including limiting all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sales in the signatory states to ZEVs by 2050. The signatory states will also seek to accelerate the deployment of medium- and heavy-duty ZEVs to benefit disadvantaged communities and explore opportunities to coordinate and partner with key stakeholders.

For more information, see the Medium- and Heavy-Duty ZEVs: Action Plan Development Process website.

Petroleum Reduction Initiative

The Petroleum Savings and Independence Advisory Commission (Commission) was established to provide recommendations and monitor programs designed to reduce the state's dependence on petroleum-based fuels in the transportation and heating sectors. Established targets may not provide less than a 30% overall reduction in petroleum consumption from 2007 levels by 2030 and a 50% overall reduction from 2007 levels by 2050. Recommendations will include those related to incentives, plug-in electric vehicle deployment, implementation of a clean fuels standard, and land use planning. The Commission must report on monitoring activities to the General Assembly at least every two years. The Commission must also continue to evaluate the state's progress toward meeting petroleum-reduction goals and make recommendations to the General Assembly as necessary. (Reference Rhode Island General Laws 42-140.4)

Public Utility Definition

A company that provides alternative fuel or energy sources for use as a motor vehicle fuel or energy source is not defined as a public utility. (Reference Rhode Island Code 39-1-2)

State Agency Coordination to Address Climate Change

The Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) was established to coordinate efforts between state agencies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EC4 will pursue GHG emissions reductions of 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. State agencies must assist EC4 to develop programs to encourage state employees to reduce vehicle miles traveled and use public transportation when available. The Council will also work with municipalities to encourage sustainability; identify federal, state, and private funding opportunities that can be leveraged to reduce emissions in Rhode Island; and develop GHG emissions reduction strategies. The Council submitted a plan in December 2016 with suggested strategies for GHG emissions reduction activities to the governor. The EC4 and the State Chief Resiliency Officer submitted a statewide Action Plan to Stand Up to Climate Change and to the governor in July 2018. (Reference Executive Order 17-10, 2017, and Rhode Island General Laws 42-6.2)

Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Deployment Support

Rhode Island joined California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Vermont in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to support the deployment of ZEVs through involvement in a ZEV Program Implementation Task Force (Task Force). In May 2014, the Task Force published a ZEV Action Plan (Plan) identifying 11 priority actions to accomplish the goals of the MOU, including deploying at least 3.3 million ZEVs and adequate fueling infrastructure within the signatory states by 2025. The Plan also includes a research agenda to inform future actions. On an annual basis, each state must report on the number of registered ZEVs, the number of public electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) and hydrogen fueling stations, and available information regarding workplace fueling for ZEVs.

In June 2018, the Task Force published a new ZEV Action Plan for 2018-2021. Building on the 2014 Action Plan, the 2018 Action Plan makes recommendations for states and other key partners in five priority areas:

  • Raising consumer awareness and interest in electric vehicle technology;
  • Building out a reliable and convenient residential, workplace and public charging/fueling infrastructure network;
  • Continuing and improving access to consumer purchase and non-financial incentives;
  • Expanding public and private sector fleet adoption; and
  • Supporting dealership efforts to increase ZEV sales.

For more information, see the Multi-State ZEV Task Force website.

State Incentives

Clean Diesel Grant

The Rhode Island Clean Diesel Fund provides companies with reimbursement grants to reduce emissions from heavy-duty diesel vehicles. Qualified vehicle improvements include vehicle replacements, engine repowers, conversions to alternative vehicle fuels, idle reduction technologies, and other fuel-efficient technologies. To be eligible, vehicles must be registered with the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles, and 50% of the vehicle miles travelled or hours of operation must be in Rhode Island for at least five years following receiving the grant. (Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-47.3-5.1)

Electric Vehicle Emissions Inspection Exemption

Vehicles powered exclusively by electricity are exempt from state emissions control inspections. For more information, see the Rhode Island Emissions and Safety Testing Program website. (Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-47.1-5)

Utility/Private Incentives

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station Incentive – National Grid

National Grid offers commercial customers rebates of up to 100% of installation costs for select Level 2 or direct current fast charging (DCFC) stations at workplaces, businesses, multi-unit dwellings, universities, and medical campuses. For more information, including eligible equipment, see the National Grid Electric Transportation and Charging Programs website.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Support

Rhode Island utilities joined the National Electric Highway Coalition (NEHC), committing to create a network of direct current fast charging (DCFC) stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific of the United States. NEHC utility members agree to ensure efficient and effective fast charging deployment plans that enable long distance EV travel, avoiding duplication among coalition utilities, and complement existing corridor DCFC sites. For more information, including a list of participating utilities and states, see the NEHC website.

Fleet Advisory Services – National Grid

National Grid offers advisory services to support the electrification of up to 12 Rhode Island-based fleets. Eligible fleets include light-duty corporate, medium- and heavy-duty government, public transit, and municipal school bus fleets. For more information, see the National Grid Electric Transportation and Charging Programs website.

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