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Ybarra energy bill approved unanimously by WA House and Senate

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(The Center Square) – Under Washington state’s Energy Independence Act, utility companies have been required to calculate their electric loads to annually meet “renewable energy targets” of at least 15% of their load.

That means qualifying utilities – those with 25,000 or more customers – had to use renewable energy sources or acquire equivalent “energy credits” to comply with the law, which was approved by voters in 2006.

But under the EIA, even if a retail customer was already buying 100% clean energy through a special program, the utility still had to obtain another 15% of renewable energy for compliance purposes. That was a barrier for utilities wanting to establish voluntary renewable energy programs for customers without incurring additional, punitive costs.

To address the issue, 13th District state Rep. Alex Ybarra, R-Quincy, introduced House Bill 1948, which allows a utility to stop at 100% for a particular customer. The intent, said Ybarra, is to encourage voluntary investments in renewable power by customers without affecting their utility company’s load calculations and obligations under the act.

The bipartisan bill has been unanimously passed by both the House and Senate and now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office for consideration.

“This measure aims to make more renewable energy resources available on a larger scale,” Ybarra said in news release on Tuesday. “It allows utilities to create voluntary clean energy programs, where they can combine renewable energy credits and retire them for participants.”

According to a summary of the bill, HB 1948 “is consistent with the original intent of the EIA and will remove barriers for utilities that want to establish voluntary renewable energy programs for their customers.”

Testimony was heard in both the House and Senate committees on Energy & Environment. Among those speaking in support of the measure were Charlee Thompson of the Northwest Energy Coalition, Lori Moen of Seattle City Light, and Glenn Blackmon of the state Department of Commerce. No opposition was voiced.

Under the EIA, a qualifying utility’s load is defined as the kilowatt-hours of electricity delivered in the most recently completed year to its retail customers within Washington. There are parameters for calculating the annual renewable energy targets, which a utility does not have to meet if it spends at least 4% of its retail revenue on related costs or credits.

Ybarra also talked about simplifying and avoiding overlapping requirements between the EIA and the state’s Clean Energy Transformation Act and the Climate Commitment Act.

“Some requirements in these acts overlap to some extent, and we want to avoid that,” he noted.

Along with Ybarra, the bill was sponsored by fellow Republican Rep. Jenny Graham and Democrats Beth Doglio, Joe Fitzgibbon, Timm Ormsby, Gerry Pollet and Julie Reed.

Ybarra’s legislative district in central Washington includes or abuts the public utility districts of Chelan, Douglas, and Grant counties which all have hydropower dams operating on the mid-Columbia River.

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