Olympia Legislative Report, March 29, 2013

Washington Clean Tech Alliance
Prepared by:  Boswell Consulting

We are nearing the end of week 11 and next Wednesday is policy cutoff.  This means that legislation must be out of its opposite house policy committee to continue through the process.  This is usually where most controversial bills have a higher chance of dying and, at this point, the total number of bills that are still in play has shrunk significantly.  All eyes are beginning to turn towards the budget and Governor Inslee put out his budget priorities, including $1.2 billion worth of temporary tax extensions and new tax proposals.  The Senate is expected to put out its budget proposal next week, with the House expected to follow shortly after that.  At this point, everyone is expecting a long, protracted budget battle between the House and Senate, with clear lines drawn over the use of new tax revenue.

HB 1301 (Creating clean energy jobs in Washington state through renewable energy incentives) (sponsored by Representatives Morris, Ryu, McCoy, Hudgins, Morrell, and Pollet) has been largely whittled down to just the following:

  • Replaces annual cost-recovery incentive applications with a voucher entitling applicants to receive incentive payments for a term of ten years.
  • Limits incentive payments to $25,000 per year per system.
  • Moves program administration from the Department of Revenue to an agency to be designated by the Governor.
  • Authorizes qualifying utilities to claim an additional tax credit for electricity generated by a utility-owned solar energy system with a capacity of up to 100 kilowatts installed on the premises of a residential or commercial retail electric customer.
  • Authorizes the Utilities and Transportation Commission to allow utilities to recover in tariffs the cost of certain solar energy systems.
  • Establishes performance benchmarks, review by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, and reporting requirements.

The House Environment Committee this week held a work session on Thursday on energy storage with presentations on Introduction to Energy Storage (Jessica Harrison, Consultant, DNV KEMA), Energy Storage Industry Perspective (Dave Curry, President and CEO, Demand Energy), UniEnergy Technologies (Gary Yang, President and CEO, and Russ Weed, Vice President Business Development, UniEnergy Technologies) and Snohomish PUD Energy Storage Project (Craig Collar, Assistant General).

In the Governor’s budget priorities proposal, these pieces were included:

  • Provide grants through a revolving fund to not-for-profit lenders able to match the state grant with private capital. Grants will be used to increase financing for building energy efficiency as well as for small and medium-scale renewable energy projects. The not-for-profit lenders will make loans to fund projects such as residential and commercial energy retrofits, residential and community-scale solar installations, anaerobic digesters to treat dairy waste, and combined heat and power projects using woody biomass as a fuel source. ($20.0 million capital budget)
  • Fund grants to public utilities and entities that will match funds to implement solutions that manage intermittent renewable and distributed energy. Winning grants will advance the development of an industry standard for dispatching energy storage resources from utility control rooms and use power management technologies that could lower costs for utility customers. ($20.0 million capital budget)
  • Provide matching funds to research institutions such as the University of Washington and Washington State University to make them more attractive as they compete for federal funds to develop clean energy solutions. Funds will also support Washington’s efforts to compete for federal funding for advanced manufacturing centers. ($10.0 million capital budget)
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by tripling the number of miles that can be traveled by electric vehicles (from 550 million to more than 1.5 billion miles). Funds will be used to construct 40 to 50 fast-charging (level 3) stations along interstates (82, 90, 205 and 405) and state routes (12, 97, 167 and 518) as well as in key urban areas. These installations would cost approximately $6 million. In addition, $3 million would be used for public and private workplace charging facilities (level 2) at approximately 150 locations statewide. ($9.0 million capital budget)
  • Construct 30 biofuel storage, distribution and fueling facilities to ensure local and state governments achieve their alternative fuel goals and create jobs (assuming costs of approximately $300,000 per location, with one-third of the cost funded locally). These structures will offer ease of storage and distribution of commercial biofuel blends, especially in proximity to major state ferry and state and local government vehicle refueling centers. ($6.0 million capital budget, $3.0 million matching funds)
  • Implement the priority recommendations of the blue-ribbon Ocean Acidification Panel to monitor and reduce impacts of acidic water on the state’s shellfish industry and native shellfish. ($3.3 million total: $2.0 million State Toxics Control Account; $820,000 Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account; $510,000 Resource Management Cost Account)
  • Fund grants and loans to public/private partnerships that offer innovative, effective biofuel production methods. This will boost the production of biofuels, shrink dependence on imported fuels and encourage the growth of oilseed farms. Funding will require a minimum of a 1-to-1 local/private match. ($3.0 million capital budget)
  • Support the work of the Governor’s Climate Legislative and Executive Work Group to develop policies and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that meet legislatively established emission limits. ($250,000 supplemental budget; $377,000 biennial budget)

It is unclear at this time how these budget priorities are going to be received by the legislature.

Read the full report including bill tracking here.