OLYMPIA… State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, outlined a comprehensive energy plan Feb. 4 that will be advanced through policy committees in the Washington Senate this year – a bold vision of new-energy promotion and innovation unleashed, aimed at creating and retaining jobs in Washington state while reducing carbon emissions.
And one key point: No taxation is involved. “In the Senate, we’re about carrots, not sticks,” explained Ericksen, chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. Joining Ericksen at the news conference were Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, chair of the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, vice-chair of the Senate energy panel, and Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus chair.
The energy plan’s centerpiece is a measure that builds upon Washington’s Initiative 937 by providing incentives for utility investment in programs to reduce carbon emissions. Other bills in the package promote the deployment of clean-energy technologies.
“We want to provide incentives for the development of clean energy in the state of Washington without punishing industry, electric utilities and the citizens of Washington state,” Ericksen said. “No wrenching upheaval to our economy is necessary. We don’t need to jack up the cost of electricity and fuel and hope the pain of these energy taxes will force our low-income citizens to use less. We have a better way.”
Senate Bill 5735, the central bill of the package, uses the 2006 renewable-energy initiative to leverage utility investments in carbon reduction. I-937 requires most Washington utilities to purchase a growing share of their power from “renewable energy.” In practice the measure promotes carbon emissions because the purchasing requirements exclude hydropower. The effect has been to displace the region’s cleanest and cheapest source of electricity in favor of wind, which requires a backup power source for times when the wind does not blow. Typically that backup power is generated by fossil fuels.
SB 5735 recognizes the current interest in reducing greenhouse gases by giving utilities credit toward their 937 obligations when they invest in carbon reduction. These investments could include electric-vehicle charging stations, the conversion of motor fleets and ferries to liquefied natural gas, conservation and anything else that reduces the emission of carbon. Emissions reductions would be verified by a third party and credits would be awarded according a mathematical formula.
“The bill corrects a longstanding flaw in I-937 by aligning the measure with what most voters probably thought they were getting back in 2006,” Ericksen said. “We get a cleaner environment. We get a more flexible and workable law. And we protect the utilities that have already made big commitments to wind power, because we don’t strand their investments.”
The carbon-reduction bill will be heard Thursday in Ericksen’s committee.
Other bills in the energy package include:
- SB 5325, providing tax incentives for purchases of alternative-fuel vehicles in commercial fleets.
- SB 5426, requiring the Department of Transportation to seek bids for conversion of ferries from diesel fuel to liquefied natural gas.
- SB 5114, providing tax incentives for the manufacture and construction of small modular nuclear reactors.
- A soon-to-be introduced bill that protects ratepayers if Washington utilities choose to stop using carbon-generating power sources in other states.
“These aren’t the extent of the Senate’s approach, but rather just the beginning,” Ericksen said. “Clean energy is on the way whatever we do in government. But there is much we can do with government policy to encourage it.”