Senate passes bill to raise electricity prices, make statement about climate

  • 75 percent of Washington power already carbon free
  • 100 percent goal would drive up electric bills, end state’s low-cost advantage
  • No effect on world climate, local conditions
  • Ericksen offers more-practical REAL Energy Act proposal

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate Friday passed a measure that would dramatically drive up electric bills while doing nothing to change world climate, said state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

The bill, SB 5116, would require Washington electric utilities to obtain 100 percent of their power from carbon-free sources by 2045, disregarding cost, feasibility and reduced reliability of the electric grid.

Washington already is a world clean-energy leader, observed Ericksen, ranking Republican on the Environment, Energy and Technology Committee. Seventy-five percent of its power comes from zero-emission sources, largely hydroelectric, behind only Vermont and Idaho. Most states and industrialized nations are less than 40 percent. Further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be much more difficult and expensive in Washington than elsewhere, because the state already has done the things that are most cost-effective. Impact will be particularly harsh on working families and those on low and fixed incomes, who already struggle with winter heating bills.

“Instead of beating up on the people of Washington state, driving up electric bills and driving jobs out of Washington, we ought to be celebrating the fact that we are already clean,” Ericksen said. “We should do everything we can to preserve that low-cost clean-energy advantage. This won’t make a whit of difference to world climate, and all we’re really doing is satisfying political promises and fulfilling shallow bumper-sticker slogans.”

While coal is on the decline, the state would have trouble eliminating natural gas, Ericksen said. No replacement technology offers the same reliability, he said, putting the state at risk of brownouts due to lower baseload capacity.

Ericksen is offering a counterproposal, the Reliable Environmental Achievable Leadership (REAL) Energy Act, which would require Washington utilities to generate 80 percent of their power from non-emitting sources by 2030.

“We ought to set goals we can achieve,” Ericksen said. “No legislation we can pass can live up to the hype. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has documented that nothing in this act, or any combination of legislation in this state, will in any way impact global climate.

“We can’t pass a law in Washington state that will change snowpack in the Cascades, stop wildfires, affect ocean acidification or sea levels, or improve the lives of polar bears. We emit so little carbon in the first place that any reductions we make here will be more than offset by increases in other nations. We ought to be exporting our technologies to other states and nations and encouraging them to duplicate the success we already have achieved, not punishing our own citizens with higher electric bills.”


Comparison figures – Percentage of Electricity from Renewable Sources

(does not include nuclear power)

  • Washington – 71 percent (rises to 75 percent with nuclear)
  • California – 43 percent
  • Germany – 32 percent
  • K. – 25 percent
  • France – 19.2 percent
  • China – 15-24 percent
  • Japan – 15 percent
  • India – 12.8 percent