The Republican controlled Washington State Senate has proposed changes to Initiative 937 that, according to a statement yesterday by Governor Jay Inslee “would take us backwards instead of forwards” by decreasing the amount of renewable energy that must be provided by Washington State electric utilities.
Initiative 937 known as the clean energy or renewable energy initiative, mandates that large electric utilities get 15% of their electricity from new renewable energy by 2020 with phase in goals of 3% by 2012 and 9% by 2016.
The initiative was controversial mainly because among its requirements were that the new renewable energy resources “come(s) from a facility that commenced operation after December 31, 2005.” This requirement meant that practically all of the hydroelectric plants in the state did not qualify as a renewable resource although any upgrades to existing hydroelectric facilities would count.
I-937 was passed in 2006 by a significant majority of 61.7% of voters over the objections of Industry opponents who claimed that this provision would increase rates and force jobs out of state.
The intent behind the initiative and the new renewable energy provision was to ensure that as the power demand increased in the state the percentage of renewable energy would not decrease as the relatively static amount of hydroelectric power decreased as percentage of overall power generation in the state. The initiative was essentially aimed at increasing the generation of solar, wind and other non-hydroelectric sources of power in the state.
The changes to the initiative proposed this month in the State Senate would allow pre-2006 hydroelectric power to count as new renewable energy and so would significantly reduce the amount of new renewable energy that would be mandated under the initiative. This would effectively remove the intended purpose of the initiative and vastly reduce its impact.
The Washington State Environmental Priorities Coalition is organizing opposition to the proposed changes and urging Washingtonians to contact members of the House Environment and Senate Energy committees to urge them to oppose the anti I-937 legislation. Another way to get involved in environmental policy is to attend Environmental Lobby Day in Olympia on February 19th and have a chance to speak directly to your state representatives.