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Washington legislature sends governor his 100% clean energy bill

Highlights

Bill requires utilities to eliminate coal-fired power by December 31, 2025

Washington would become fourth state to mandate 100% emissions-free power

Washington — The Washington State Senate approved and sent to Governor Jay Inslee a 100% clean-power bill that forms the cornerstone of the governor's efforts to address climate change and his 2020 presidential election campaign.

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The Senate, in a 29-20 vote, approved Senate Bill 5116 to require all electric utilities to eliminate coal-fired electricity by December 31, 2025, and to make all of their retail electricity sales free of greenhouse gas emissions by January 1, 2030.

The state only has one existing coal-fired plant, but utilities still import coal-fired power from other states.

Once signed by Inslee, the new measure will make Washington the fourth state, behind California, Hawaii and New Mexico, to pass legislation mandating 100% emissions-free power.

The bill applies to Puget Sound Energy Inc., Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary PacifiCorp, and Avista Corp., as well as consumer-owned utilities. Washington has a number of public utility districts whose compliance is under the jurisdiction of the state auditor and attorney general.

In a statement, Inslee called SB5116 the country's most forward-looking clean energy bill. "There are a number of other meaningful climate bills moving forward this legislative session, but more than any other, this bill will fundamentally transform Washington's energy future and transition us to 100% clean energy," he said.

SB5116 is not strictly a renewable-energy bill, since the utilities can continue to rely on the state's abundant hydropower resources and on nuclear power. Utilities can also use renewable energy credits to achieve compliance if they buy them from generators of renewable energy. They can also qualify with "energy transformation projects" that provide services other than electric generation, such as weatherization of homes and electric car chargers, that result in a reduction in fossil fuel use and overall greenhouse gas emissions. These alternative compliance options are limited to 20% of retail sales through 2044.

By 2045, each electric utility must meet 100% of its retail electric load in Washington using emissions-free electric generation.

The bill also requires electric utilities and gas companies to use a social cost of carbon for planning, evaluating, and acquiring all resources, puts a 2% annual cap on utility cost increases for compliance and provides incentives through performance-based ratemaking. The state will assess an administrative penalty of $60 for each megawatt-hour that is not in compliance.

-- Jeff Stanfield, S&P Global Market Intelligence, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com