How I-937 protects consumers in Washington state
Dear Members of the Washington State Legislature:
Over the past 15 years my organization, A W.I.S.H. (A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity) has collaborated on more than 100 projects in 14 countries aimed at providing real solutions to the inextricable issues of poverty and environment. Those sustainable solutions have included community-based windpower, zero-net-energy homes and use of solar energy.
Today I turn my attention closer to home. As someone who has spent his entire adult life advocating for the concerns of low-income families, I am deeply troubled by several proposed changes to our state’s Clean Energy Act, Initiative 937 including those that have been mistakenly portrayed as protections for electric consumers. I refer specifically to provisions that would reduce the Act’s renewable energy standards.
Washington voters passed I-937 in 2006, reflecting our desire to make our future power system at least as clean as today’s and for our citizens to benefit economically from new, local clean energy development.
I-937 contains renewable-energy standards and a separate mandate for utilities to do all they can to reduce customers’ bills through energy conservation programs. Energy efficiency efforts are crucial for low-income families, and not just because they immediately lower utility bills. In addition, they provide jobs in home weatherization and in other areas as the new income rolls through local businesses and boosts the local government’s tax base.
But we must have new renewable energy, too. Conservation won’t meet all the region’s power needs. Low-income families, as much or more than any other consumers, need the guaranteed, stable rates that come only with renewables, since the fuels we know as sunshine, wind and the heat of the Earth are ours for free, and not subject to price spikes or embargoes. To get there, we must have a long-term perspective.
Some have suggested that the people’s initiative will hurt consumers by raising electric rates. Where’s the evidence? More than half the states in our country have renewable energy standards, and no one has seen any significant effect – up or down – on utility rates. Meanwhile these states have insured themselves against over-reliance on just one form of energy … a protection that I-937 gives the people of Washington.
I-937 also contains a cost cap to limit any renewable standard-related rate increase. The huge rises in Northwest electric rates over the past 10 years have been financially crippling to many of our families and have had nothing to do with developing new renewable energy. In fact, much of those increases could have been avoided by taking the clean power path earlier.
Our state unemployment rate recently surpassed 8 percent. A recent scientific study shows that by 2025, I-937 will create 2,000 new jobs in manufacturing, construction, operation, maintenance and other industries while generating $138 million in additional income, and adding $148 million to Washington’s gross state product. This is hardly the time to shut the door on job-creating investments in renewable energy and put all consumers at risk of future rate spikes and power shortages.
President and Chief Executive Officer
A W.I.S.H. (A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity)