Washington state agencies will purchase over 100 million kWh of electricity from wind and solar projects located in the state by 2021, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Oct. 17. The total purchase — enough electricity to power more than 6,000 homes — represents nearly one-quarter of the electricity demand required to power state agency operations, his office said in a news release.
The power purchases will be made through agencies' participation in Puget Sound Energy Inc.'s Green Direct program and Avista Corp.'s "Solar Select" program.
Puget Sound Energy's Green Direct program is designed to help corporate and municipal customers meet carbon reduction goals by purchasing power from the 135-MW Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project in Lewis County — the first renewable energy project under the initiative. Similarly, Avista's Solar Select program will allow commercial and industrial customers to purchase renewable power from a planned 28-MW solar facility in Lind, Wash. Once complete, the facility will be 25 times larger than the current largest solar array in Washington, according to the company.
The power purchases will save state agencies more than $15,000 per year and reduce emissions by 22,000 metric tons per year, Inslee's office said.
In 2008, the state legislature adopted reduction targets for greenhouse gases that call for reducing emissions 50% below 1990 levels by 2050. But progress toward meeting that goal has been slow. Voters in 2016 overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative that would have established a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and state lawmakers failed to pass a carbon tax bill in the most recent legislative session.
Meanwhile, Inslee in January signed an executive order requiring agencies with the largest share of statewide greenhouse gas emissions to take measures to significantly reduce emissions from their operations. The Office of State Efficiency and Environmental Performance, which operates within the Department of Commerce, coordinates interagency work to implement the executive order, according to Inslee's office.
"We are walking the talk when it comes to stepping up to the challenge of reducing emissions across state government," Inslee said in a statement. "One way we are doing this is by purchasing clean, renewable energy from projects built right here in Washington state. Not only does this get us closer to meeting our emissions reduction goals, but it will also save us money over the long term."
The announcement comes as voters in the state consider a November ballot initiative that would place the nation's first statewide fee on carbon pollution.