Thursday, October 13, 2011

Powering the Future: Rhode Island's Energy Alternatives

Whether one arrives at energy conservation out of concern for the environment, or out of the defensive need to save money, the bottom line is: old energy habits are changing.

Powering the Future: Rhode Island's Energy Alternatives surveys Rhode Island's current energy conservation thought and practice – the research, policies, and programs that feature renewable, sustainable, alternative, and cost-effective energy. Powering the Future also probes the truth and the hype behind using these "green" technologies as a path for economic development and job creation in Rhode Island. WSBE Rhode Island PBS presents Powering the Future: Rhode Island's Energy Alternatives on Monday, October 17 at 8 P.M.

"Our goal is to give Rhode Islanders an overview of the state's current energy picture, what's going on now and what is down the road," explained Dave Layman, producer and discussion moderator of Powering the Future: Rhode Island's Energy Alternatives.
"Some options are very expensive and we are – or will be – picking up the tab. We are doubly invested as energy users and ratepayers," Layman added. "We need to know what we are buying and if it is worth it."

Current Environment

In many ways, Rhode Island is already making changes. Rhode Island has all the elements to successfully lead alternative energy research and implementation. Rhode Island is known as "The Ocean State" for its 411 miles of shoreline on Narragansett Bay in the Atlantic Ocean. It is home to the world-class College of Environment and Life Sciences at the nationally-recognized University of Rhode Island. Rhode Island's compact geographical size, and strategically located air, sea, and rail transportation make it an attractive site to conduct environmental and energy research and testing.

But for Rhode Island to attract the investment needed for development, the stakeholders – the political and regulatory decision makers, private investors, taxpayers, ratepayers, and residents of the project area – need information.

Unintended Consequences

An important part of balanced information gathering includes considering the unintended consequences of abandoning the devil we know – coal and oil as fuel sources, for example – and blindly embracing the devil we don't know – nascent "green" technologies and products that may pose a greater environmental threat at the end of their life cycles. For example, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) last longer and use less electricity than incandescent bulbs, but a broken CFL leaks toxic mercury.

Powering the Future goes beyond the light switch to explore the resource – and cost – choices behind "green" energy. Layman interviews advocates and opponents, experts and consumers in recorded video segments and two in-studio panel discussions.


The first panel frames the state's energy needs and practices in context, with invited panelists Dr. Marion Gold, co-director of the URI Energy Center; Tim Horan, president of National Grid-Rhode Island; Jeff Grybowski, chief administrator of Deepwater Wind; Abigail Anthony, policy analyst for Environment Northeast; and Dr. Edward Mazze, distinguished university professor of business administration and former dean of the URI college of Business Administration.

The second panel focuses the discussion on Rhode Island's proposed wind energy project, with perspectives from the equally passionate proponents and opponents. This discussion will also examine the project's feasibility as an economic development vehicle; the estimates of new jobs that will be created vary widely. Jeff Grybowski and Dr. Ed Mazze return for the second panel, and are joined by Rosemarie Ives, a Block Island resident leading the opposition to Deepwater.


After its premiere on WSBE Rhode Island PBS October 17, Powering the Future: Rhode Island's Energy Alternatives will air on October 19 at 12:30 A.M. and 4 A.M., October 22 at 3:30 A.M. October 23 at 10:30 P.M. October 25 at 2:30 A.M. On WSBE Learn, Tuesday, October 18 at 10 P.M., October 19 at 5 A.M. October 20 at 2 A.M.

WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) programming over the air on digital 36.1; on cable services: Cox 08 / 1008HD, Verizon 08 / 508HD, Full Channel 08, Comcast 819HD; on satellite: DirecTV 36, Dish Network 7776.

WSBE Learn transmits over the air on digital 36.2; on cable: Cox 808, Verizon 478, Full Channel 109, Comcast 294 or 312.

WSBE Rhode Island PBS is operated by the Rhode Island Public Telecommunications Authority, a public corporation established by Rhode Island General Laws 16-61-2. WSBE is a viewer-supported member of the PBS network of public broadcasting stations, and transmits on two channels: WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits standard-definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) programming over the air on digital 36.1. Rhode Island cable channels are Cox 08 / 1008HD, Verizon 08 / 508HD, and Full Channel 08; in Massachusetts, Comcast 819HD; on satellite, DirecTV 36, and Dish Network 7776. WSBE Learn transmits over the air on digital 36.2; on Cox 808; Verizon 478; Full Channel 109; and Comcast 294 or 312. Committed to lifelong learning for more than 44 years, WSBE uses the power of commercial-free media to educate, engage, enrich, inspire, and entertain viewers of all ages in Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts, and eastern Connecticut. For more information about the programs and education services at WSBE, visit

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