Possible changes in store for clean energy law

Possible changes in store for clean energy law
SB 6135 would amend the Clean Energy Transformation Act passed last year to address concerns about system reliability and potential blackouts. Photo: freepik.com

The state legislature last year enacted the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) mandating that utilities achieve 100 percent carbon neutral energy by 2035 and 100 percent clean energy by 2045. The law also requires the end of coal-powered electricity by 2025. SB 6135 introduced by Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-35) and cosponsored by Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee Chair Reuven Carlyle (D-36) who sponsored CETA, would amend that law to address issues that could eventually lead to blackouts.

“This bill is about resource adequacy and system reliability,” Sheldon told colleagues at a Jan. 21 public hearing of the Environment, Energy & Technology Committee. “Things are moving much faster than we ever thought. It’s very important that we make sure we do not have blackouts in this state and this region.”

Under CETA, the state Department of Commerce must submit a report to the legislature every four years starting in 2024 that includes energy reliability and cost. One of the primary concerns among stakeholders is the lack of clean energy resources to replace carbon-based sources as utilities transition. A CETA provision allows utilities to halt implementation if it would cause rates to increase more than two percent annually.

Under SB 6135, Commerce’s report would be conducted starting in 2022. The bill also requires the state agency to provide the legislature with recommended actions if CETA implementation threatens the system reliability.

“We live in a region that is dependent on working together,” Sheldon said. “I think it’s imperative that we open up the Clean Energy Transformation Act and do a little bit of mechanical work on the bill.”

Among those testifying in support of the bill were Association of Washington Business (AWB) Government Affairs Director Peter Godlewski and Cowiltz PUD Director of Regulatory and Regional Affairs Steve Taylor. Taylor told lawmakers that the system is “highly sensitive to even minor disturbances.”

Also supportive was Energy Northwest Director of Generation and Technology Development, Greg Cullen. “Ensuring a reliable electric system will require a comprehensive approach and the state must be involved and invested in this process. Building new resources will take time. If we fail to provide adequate clean resources, the future of CETA could be in jeopardy.”

However, Commerce Energy Policy Director Glenn Blackmon suggested any issues could be resolved without amending CETA. He added that the assessment will rely on data provided from utilities already looking at system reliability.

“We feel that is a good order of operations to see the utility results first,” he said.

Opposed was Northwest Energy Coalition Policy Associate Annabel Drayton, arguing it would “create confusion and result in a weak and potentially inadequate study.”

No further action is scheduled for SB 6135 at this time.

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