Washington State Adopts New Renewable Energy and Efficiency Laws

May 11, 2005

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed a number of energy-related bills into law on May 6th that will set up the state as a policy leader for renewable energy and energy efficiency. For renewable energy, perhaps the most significant bill is Senate Bill 5101, which pays incentives of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour (capped at $2,000 per year) to individuals, businesses, or local governments that generate electricity from solar power, wind power, or anaerobic digesters. The state's utilities will pay the incentives and earn a tax credit for those payments. The incentive increases if certain components for the system are manufactured within the state, but could also be uniformly reduced if too many utility customers apply for the incentive. The bill applies to power generated as of July 1st and remains in effect through June 30, 2014. It applies initially to off-grid power sources, but will extend to grid-connected power sources once most utilities in the state adopt uniform standards for connecting to the grid. In addition to Senate Bill 5101, the governor signed Senate Bill 5111, which creates tax credits for manufacturers and wholesale marketers of solar photovoltaic modules or silicon components of those systems. See the texts of Senate Bill 5101 and the Senate Bill 5111.

Washington is also the latest state to adopt energy efficiency standards for 12 products not covered by current federal standards, a step taken most recently by Arizona in late April. House Bill 1062 sets standards for illuminated exit signs, low-voltage dry-type distribution transformers, metal halide lamp fixtures, external power supplies, incandescent reflector lamps, torchieres, traffic signals, unit heaters, and automatic commercial ice cube machines, as well as commercial clothes washers, pre-rinse spray valves, and refrigerators and freezers. According to the legislation, the standards are expected to save consumers $490 million by 2020 while reducing the state's annual energy and water consumption by 900,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, 13 million therms of natural gas, and 1.7 billion gallons of water. The governor also signed House Bill 1895, which encourages energy efficiency at all levels of government, and Senate Bill 5916, which provides a sales tax exemption for passenger cars and trucks purchased during 2009 or 2010 that run on natural gas, propane, electricity, hydrogen, or hybrid technology. See the press release from Washington Representative Jeff Morris, a sponsor of several of the bills, or go directly to the texts of House Bill 1062, House Bill 1895, and Senate Bill 5916.

Last but not least, Washington has become the latest state to adopt California's motor vehicle emissions standards, including its greenhouse gas emission standards, but not including California's zero emissions vehicle program. The regulations take effect in 2009, but only if Oregon also adopts the standards. See the governor's press release and the text of the vehicle emissions bill, House Bill 1397.