As we head into a worsening economic crisis, Rhode Island is unprepared. Our state could be planning for downturns. The U.S. economy has fallen into recession at least once every decade since 1950, but instead of getting ready, Rhode Island falls back on pinching pennies and praying for a bailout whenever the economy weakens. 

 This lack of planning hurts us, and its especially infuriating when Rhode Island has a huge opportunity to improve its fortunes with a dependable industry, stable jobs, and a steady stream of revenue that can fortify our state against recession and economic nosedives. 

 A project in Batesville, Arkansas is an example of how Rhode Island can bolster itself. The Batesville School District was spending $600,000 every year for energy and straining its finances. Little Rock energy company Entegrity came up with a plan to save the district over $2 million in 20 years by installing solar panels and updating its buildings with new lights, windows, and heating and cooling systems. 

 Entegrity reduced the districts yearly energy consumption by 1.6 million kWh and, in only three years, turned the districts $250,000 budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus. Updated estimates project that the district will save $4 million in 20 years. 

 Entegrity financed, built, and maintains the solar arrays on the high school grounds, which means that the district had no upfront costs and received immediate savings. The district pays Entegrity for the energy the panels produce, which, with the right state policies, can cost less than power from a traditional utility. 

 Not surprisingly, the people of Batesville are pleased with the project. They drive to the high school to see its solar canopies, and they approve of how their tax dollars are being spent. People recognize a good business deal when they see one. 

 In Rhode Island, the state would finance and build energy production. Businesses and citizens would see instant savings. With a state-sized project, even greater efficiency could be realized with a new, modern electrical grid, and most importantly, clean energy can be our hedge against recession. 

 No industry is immune to economic slowdowns, but energy is always needed, and energy production will always deliver income. Clean energy will give us a foundation that supports us during recessions, and in good times, production, efficiency, and savings can help individuals, businesses, and the state build a surplus to make it easier to weather the next fiscal storm. 

 The technology is ready. Clean energy systems exist. Public/private partnerships are operating. The sun shines, and the wind blows. All we need to do is plan and put the pieces together. Rhode Island can build financial independence through self-reliance and create the strong and sturdy economy we all deserve. 

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