Olympia, WA. – The House Technology and Economic Development Committee held a hearing today on HB 2346, a bill that would extend and boost the state renewable energy production incentive program. This program has been a key factor in the growth of solar power, a virtually limitless pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs, in Washington State. Without legislative action, the program faces two hurdles – incentive payments will expire in 2020, and already some utilities have hit a state-mandated cap on the program that forces utilities either to lower incentive payments to consumers who have invested in solar installations or exclude new customers who invest in solar installations from receiving incentive payments.
“We’ve got plenty of sunshine. Combine that with clean energy policies like HB 2346, and Washington can light the way on solar,” said Cecile Gernez, an organizer with Environment Washington. “We applaud Representatives Morris and Smith for their leadership in introducing this bill and their work to keep solar growing in Washington.”
“Renewable energy provides important environmental and economic development benefits to communities throughout Washington State” said Jaimes Valdez, Policy Manager for the regional non-profit Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (Northwest SEED). “HB 2346 provides a great opportunity for the deployment of new projects to bring the benefits of clean energy to more utility customers, including those of lower incomes.
Solar power is growing in Washington – per capita solar power capacity grew 56% percent in Washington in 2014. There is still significant room to grow, and join other states that are leading the charge towards a renewable future. Nationally, solar power is a growing American success story, boosting our economy and creating jobs. In 2014, nearly 1.8 billion dollars were invested in the American solar industry. This is an industry that is creating jobs 20 times faster than the overall US economy. In Washington alone, while solar made up less than one half of one percent of our energy mix in 2014, it employed 2,400 people in the state. To continue to reap these benefits, policies are need to ensure its continued growth in the state.
A September 2015 Environment Washington report titled, Lighting the Way III: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2014, found that the states who ranked the highest for solar per capita were those with policies that allow increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, and communities to “go solar.” Those in the top ten in growth included states with far less usable land and roof space than WA, such as Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. In other words, the states reaping the largest benefits from the growth of solar energy are not necessarily those with the most sunshine, but instead the states that have laid the policy groundwork to encourage solar energy adoption with legislation like HB 2346.
“The individuals, families, businesses and communities who decide to go solar are contributing to the job growth, economic investment, and environmental sustainability that are benefitting our state,” concluded Gernez. “Without extending the production incentive, and raising revenue caps, our state will lose out on the economic and environmental advantages of a booming solar industry, and our much needed transition to clean energy will be further delayed.”
Environment Washington Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentWashingtoncenter.org.