Inslee skeptical of proposed changes to renewable energy policy

By | February 11, 2013 | Comments

Wind turbines near the Blue Mountains in southeast Washington. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

The debate over renewable energy is again creating friction among lawmakers in Olympia as a number of GOP-backed bills take aim at I-937, the 2006 initiative that requires utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity with renewable sources by 2020.

Some of the bills would allow utilities to count hydroelectric power as a “renewable” source, instead of wind and solar. Other bills would narrow requirements that utilities face under the Energy Independence Act.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who has made green energy a keystone of his legislative agenda, said the push to amend I-937 is taking a step in the wrong direction. In the coming weeks, he plans to roll out new measures aimed at increasing new clean energy.

“To go backwards would be a real mistake,” Inlsee said last week. “So I’m hopeful people will take the rear view mirror off and start driving forward on renewable energy.”

Republicans leaders say some of the requirements outlined in I-937 don’t add up, eventually hurting utilities and their customers.

“Our approach is that the hydro is as clean and green as anything else and moving those standards higher just raises costs on citizens. We feel like hydro should be part of the portfolio without raising standards,” Sen. Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) said.

House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis) said Washington is already one of the leaders in renewable energy, and is the envy of other states.

“To create an artificial economy on top of our green power to satisfy special interest doesn’t really work for me,” he said.

Hydro currently accounts for about 87 percent of Washington’s electric power and Inslee insists the state must diversify.

“I think the state of Washington has a job creation future associated with moving forward on renewable energy. We see that happening in wind energy. We see that happening in solar energy,” he said.

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