By SEN. SHARON BROWN AND REP. SHELLY SHORT
Nobody likes to pay twice for the same thing. Our inherent understanding of value and fairness encompasses this fact.
Yet here in Washington state, energy consumers continually see their rates increase as they are forced to pay twice for energy efficiency upgrades as a direct result of the Energy Investment Act (EIA), passed by voters a few years back as Initiative 937. This ratepayer inequality epitomizes the notion of “unforeseen circumstances” and is something that can – and should – be rectified.
The EIA mandates that large utilities obtain 15 percent of their electricity through renewable resources. While it fails to recognize hydropower as clean energy (one of the only states that fails to do so), it does allow utilities to count efficiency improvements to certain existing hydro projects towards the new law’s green-energy mandate. These are upgrades or changes that allow more electricity to be produced from the same amount of water.
But here’s where the double jeopardy part comes in. The EIA very specifically does not recognize any efficiency upgrades made to the federal hydro system marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).
This is unfortunate as ratepayers have paid millions of dollars to help these hydro systems become more energy-efficient through incremental rate increases.
In essence, the hydro systems and the consumers engaged in a good-faith effort to make better use of what we have, but are now being punished for those efforts by having to pay twice — once on the front end, and now again through mandated compliance via the purchase of renewable energy credits or more expensive in-state power, whether they need it or not.