On Monday—Earth Day—the Washington Legislature’s final passage of three bills put an exclamation point on a string of significant climate and energy legislation. In total, the Washington Legislature has passed seven bills this month, which will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from utilities and buildings, boost renewable energy, and improve energy efficiency in buildings. Here, we summarize all seven. Another major bill to reduce GHGs from transportation has cleared the House but remains in Senate committee limbo.
SB 5116, a 100% clean energy bill, is the most important enactment, particularly after the failure of climate ballot measures in 2016 (Initiative 732) and 2018 (Initiative 1631). It is also a huge win for Gov. Jay Inslee, whose nascent Presidential campaign is based on the urgent need to address climate change.
The final clean energy bill contains everything we previously summarized:
- Elimination of coal from Washington’s electricity supply—including imported power—by 2026;
- GHG-neutral electricity by 2030, allowing utilities to comply through retirement of renewable energy credits (RECs) or investment in “energy transformation projects”; and
- 100% GHG-free electricity state-wide by 2045.
Monday also saw passage of HB 1112, which will phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from most products and applications in Washington by 2024. HFCs are a particularly potent class of GHGs whose global use is increasing by 10-15% per year. Their use has increased as an alternative to ozone-depleting refrigerants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), with HFCs’ climate impact as an unintended consequence of international ozone protection efforts.
SB 5223, also passed Monday, will require electric utilities to offer net metering for customer-owned renewable generation up to 4% of the utility’s generating capacity—an increase from the existing 0.5% cap, which at least 20 utilities have already reached. Other renewable-friendly tweaks address utility billing and interconnection issues.
The three Earth Day bills follow others passed recently. On April 18, the Legislature finalized HB 1257, a major package of building energy efficiency measures. It will:
- Require electric vehicle charging infrastructure at all new buildings with on-site parking;
- Set energy efficiency standards that most large commercial buildings—including existing buildings—must meet by 2026-2028 (with incentives for early action); and
- Establish natural gas conservation requirements and a framework for more renewable natural gas use by gas utilities in the state.
And on April 15, the Legislature enacted HB 1444, which includes new state energy efficiency standards for a wide range of appliances, from showerheads to commercial fryers to air compressors. It will also require new electric water heaters with storage to include equipment facilitating their use in demand response programs.
Other recently-enacted legislation includes HB 1126 setting requirements for utility planning to include distributed energy resources (DERs) and SB 5588 authorizing production, distribution, and sale of renewable hydrogen by public utility districts.
That leaves one major piece of clean energy legislation in limbo: HB 1110, the proposed clean fuel standard, which would reduce GHG emissions from transportation, the largest source of GHG emissions in Washington. The House passed the bill on March 12, but it remains stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee under the opposition of the oil industry, Republicans, and the committee chair, Democrat Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, the Seattle Times reports. There is still time for passage, but the logjam would have to break quickly before the regular legislative session ends this Sunday, April 28.
Now that the legislative ink is dry on most of these proposals, we can begin to delve in to the details. Future blogs will analyze specific aspects of the new legislation and its implementation.