Climate Solutions blog: Protecting Washington's clean energy commitment

Despite its early prominence as a high-profile ballot campaign less than ten years ago, Washington’s Energy Independence Act (better known by it’s ballot number, I-937) seems to fly under the radar. Perhaps it’s because this groundbreaking clean energy law is working so well for Washington businesses, workers and utility customers.  This anonymity is about to change.

Jobs and economic development, better energy and a foundation for more.

Passed in 2006,  I-937 created a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), requiring Washington utilities to generate at least 15% of their electricity from new, non-hydro, renewable sources such as wind and solar. I-937 also requires that Washington utilities invest in efficiency before buying new generation, ensuring electricity is used as efficiently as possible.

Washington businesses, workers and utility customers making great strides through I-937. New renewable generation makes Washington’s grid more diverse and resilient, while communities, mostly east of the cascades, have seen over $8 billion in investment and over 3,000 construction and operations jobs. The clean energy and efficiency investments from I-937 will reduce carbon pollution by nearly 8 million tons by 2020, the most successful state climate policy currently on the books. I-937 has built the foundation for an even cleaner, more efficient and lower cost electricity system – but we have to think holistically and plan for decades to come.

Ready to ramp up

The trouble facing our clean energy future is that the new renewables requirement of I-937 caps out in 2020. Past that date, utilities must only maintain renewables as 15% of their of their load. In order to continue progressing Washington forward, to keep up with our competitors in the clean energy economy and best serve the grid of the future, we must have a plan to increase new renewable energy resources beyond this decade. Clean energy and salmon advocates have long been calling for a comprehensive post-2020 plan as opposed to short term band-aids and one-off carve outs. If we do this right, Washington would benefit from new jobs and cleaner air–it’s a great opportunity.

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