Preserving our state’s low-cost power and encouraging conservation

Two bills I’m proposing are among several measures to revise the state’s renewable-energy requirements to preserve our low-cost power. They received a public hearing on February 12 in the Senate’s Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, which I chair.

The issue is that current state law is forcing us to ship our low-cost, clean hydropower to other states, then turn around and buy more expensive power from those same states. This is already costing consumers millions of dollars and it’s just going to get more expensive.

This is as black-and-white as an issue can be in Olympia: if we don’t modify Washington’s current policy on renewable energy, utility bills will go up. Higher utility bills mean less money in the pockets of families and businesses, which keeps a lid on our state’s economic recovery. 

  • Washington’s renewable-energy requirements were established by initiative in 2006
  • By 2020 utilities with more than 25,000 customers are required to have 15 percent of the power in their portfolios coming from renewable-energy sources
    • However, hydropower is not considered a renewable-energy source
  • At the time the law was passed, it was believed Washington’s population and demand for power would continue to increase at the contemporary rate
    • The economic recession cut into demand, meaning utilities must now buy energy they don’t need to satisfy the renewable requirement

The fact is that our state is already at the forefront of energy production from emerging technologies. Rather than forging blindly ahead and forcing utilities to buy energy they don’t need, we should reconsider the law. After all, the job of the Legislature is to examine state law and improve it where possible. Energy policy shouldn’t be an exception.

Another issue we’ll be looking at today is energy conservation. Current law doesn’t encourage conservation measures undertaken by utilities to save power to the degree possible. One of my bills would allow a percentage of energy saved by utilities to carry-over from one target date to the next.

Conservation is the ideal resource – power that doesn’t have to be produced is the cheapest of all. Amending the law to allow utilities to encourage more use of conservation will save everyone money.