Attacks on Clean Energy in Washington

Washington Renewable Energy Standard Fight in 2014:

In 2014 in Washington, there was at least one ALEC-tied attempt to weaken state’s renewable energy standard.

SB 6058, which would have allowed hydropower upgrades to be included in the renewable energy standard, was sponsored by at least three ALEC members: Senator Barbara Bailey, Senator Randi Becker, and Senator Don Benton (who also serves as ALEC’s State Chairman in Washington).

The bill was passed by the State Senate, but when brought before the State House of Representatives, was returned to the Senate Rules Committee.

Washington Utility Protectionism and the Net Metering Fight in 2014:

In Washington, utility interests pushed a protectionist, anti-free market bill in an effort to safeguard the monopolistic control of electricity generation by a handful of utilities.

The bill, HB 2176, stated that “if an electric utility offers a leased energy program, no other entity may offer leases to the utility’s customers.” If it had passed, HB 2176 would have given utilities monopoly control of the distributed solar market. Currently, no solar leases are allowed in the state of Washington, despite the fact that this financing mechanism accounts for approximately 60% of residential systems in top solar states like California and Arizona, because it allows homeowners to install solar panels with little or no upfront capital cost.

Instead of trying to eliminate net metering, utilities in Washington sought to monopolize the ability to lease solar systems to homeowners—allowing them to set the price for solar and protect their balance sheets.

The effort failed to generate momentum and died in committee.

Utilities and the oil and gas industry spent more than $800,000 combined on state elections in the 2012 election cycle, with PacifiCorp contributing over $200,000 and Puget Sound Energy over $100,000.

PacifiCorp is also a member of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which worked with ALEC on the model resolution to weaken net metering policies. Puget Sound Energy, another utility that could benefit from the passage of HB 2176, is also a member of EEI. EEI unsuccessfully spent $520,000 in a 10-day television advertising campaign against net metering gut net metering policy in Arizona in 2013.

PacifiCorp currently generates 79% of its electricity from coal and natural gas with over 120,000 customers in Washington. Puget Sound Energy generates 48% of its electricity from coal and natural gas with 1.1 million customers in Washington.

Washington Renewable Energy Standard Fight in 2013:

In 2013 in Washington, five of seven sponsors of SB 5431, which would have allowed hydropower to be eligible for the RES, are ALEC members, including ALEC’s State Chairman and Senator Don Benton, Senator Doug Ericksene, Senator Barbara Bailey, Senator Mike Carrell, and Senator Mike Padden. The bill did not move forward before the legislature adjourned in April 2013.

Washington State has seen at least ten previous bills, according the Greentech Media, which would have allowed existing hydroelectric power to count towards the state’s RES and flooded out new clean energy sources.

The Washington Policy Center, a member of the State Policy Network co-published a Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) report using flawed economic data.  The study was written about in the Business Examiner, the Washington State Wire, and the National Center for Policy Analysis, another State Policy Network group.