Brown bill to lower energy costs and create jobs moves to House

SB 6058 would allow hydro efficiency improvements to count as renewable under state mandate.

Brown_120Sen. Sharon Brown is calling on the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and pass her bill to reduce energy costs for residents and employers by formally recognizing incremental hydropower as a renewable form of energy.

“The time for inaction is over,” declared the Tri-Cities lawmaker, a leading advocate for job creation and sensible energy policy in the Legislature. “People are suffering in this economy, and every dollar spent on higher utility bills is a dollar that can’t be spent on food or rent, or by an employer to put some Washingtonian desperate for a job back to work.”

“It’s time for my friends in the House to support this important effort to make a small, reasonable, but important, adjustment to our state’s renewable-energy law,” said Brown.

Senate Bill 6058 passed in the Senate today with a vote of 28 to 20. It would help ratepayers deal with some of the unintended economic hardships caused by the state’s clean-energy mandate by recognizing energy generated as a result of efficiency improvements to hydroelectricity as an eligible “renewable resource” under state law.

“No one really argues against conservation, but the law fails to consider hydro as the clean, abundant and affordable power source it truly is,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “Washington electricity users and providers have paid the price for that decision. Local utilities are forced to sell their low-cost hydropower to other states that do recognize it as a renewable energy, while they must also purchase more costly power from out of state. This cost is then passed on to the consumers. While this hurts all Washingtonians, it is particularly painful for the elderly, minorities and the poor, who all tend to pay a greater percentage of their income towards energy costs.”

Washington has always been in the forefront on clean energy with its abundance of hydropower, which it accounts for 74 percent of the state’s electric generation. Initiative 937, which since 2006 has required large utilities to obtain 15 percent of their electricity through renewable resources, recognizes power generated through solar and wind as renewable but excludes hydropower.

Efficiency changes made to hydro projects allow more electricity to be produced from the same amount of water without any new diversions or impoundments. However, the I-937 law only recognizes hydro-efficiency improvements associated with projects owned by a qualified utility. Under Brown’s bill this recognition would be extended to incremental electricity marketed by the federal Bonneville Power Administration.

“This is an issue of fairness,” said Brown. “All of our utilities should be treated equally.

“By allowing this incremental electricity produced by efficiency improvements to hydro projects to qualify as an eligible renewable resource, we not only save consumers money, but we also help our employers free up the resources they need to hire more employees and give raises and better benefits to those already employed.”