Solar bill vetoed by the governor could have cost ratepayers $54 million or more

Some of the solar panels that make up a solar farm

PROVIDENCE — How much money could Rhode Islanders have been on the hook for if Gov. Dan McKee had not vetoed a bill that shifted some of the costs of solar and wind projects from developers to electric ratepayers? 

An estimate in the near term is $54.7 million, according to emails released by state regulators in response to a records request from The Journal. And numbers of a similar magnitude could have recurred in the longer term if the current pace of renewable energy development were to continue, according to utility National Grid. 

Cynthia Wilson-Frias, a lawyer for the state Public Utilities Commission, came up with the $54-million figure after totaling the costs of transmission upgrades for six renewable energy projects that currently have agreements with National Grid to connect to the regional power system.