Proposal would incentivize hydropower investments

Proposal would incentivize hydropower investments
SB 6012 would exempt certain hydropower equipment from the state sales and use tax to encourage further investments in clean energy. Photo:

During the floor debates prior to passage of the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) last year, some legislators called attention to the absence of hydropower among the renewable energy sources provided with tax incentives. Now, lawmakers are considering SB 6012 sponsored by Sen. Brad Hawkins (R-12) which would add hydro to that list. The proposal cleared the Senate 39-9 on Feb. 17 and on March 4 was voted out of the House Finance Committee.

“Hydropower plays a really important role in supporting the non-hydro renewables and helping them be successful,” Hawkins told the committee at a Feb. 25 public hearing.

Under SB 6012, oil-free blade hubs for hydroelectric turbines and competent parts would be exempt from the state sales and use tax. The labor and services for installing the hydro parts would also be exempt from the sales tax. The bills supporters include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The bill was originally introduced last session but got stalled in the Rules Committee. At the Feb. 25 public hearing, Hawkins stressed the role hydropower will play as the state shifts toward 100 percent carbon-neutral energy by 2035 and 100 percent clean energy in 2045.

Hydropower generates almost two thirds of all electricity in Washington state and provides stability and reliability currently not offered by other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Those concerns are behind SSB 6135, which is sponsored by Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-35) and cosponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-36), CETA’s sponsor. The bill unanimously cleared the Senate on Feb. 17.

“Reliability of our electrical grid…is taken for granted by all of us because it works so well,” Carlyle said prior to the Feb. 17 vote. “There is a very serious issue on the table…not just on a cold, wet, rainy day where we’re using natural gas and other sources, but on days when hydro and wind and solar and other systems need to be integrated in a modern 21st century grid.”

A similar proposal to SB 6012 is HB 2825 sponsored by Rep. Keith Goehner (R-12). That bill was passed out of the House Finance Committee on Feb. 10 and referred to the Rules Committee, but it has yet to receive a floor vote.

About his proposal, Hawkins said: “my goal at this point is to get the bill (SB 6012) advanced through this committee at its earliest opportunity, and then hopefully bring everybody together around one bill to get approved in the House.”

“Anything we can do to help encourage people to get into newer, better technology…I think is a good move and that’s what this bill does,” Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-21) said before the March 4 vote.

Chair Gael Tarleton (D-36) agreed. “We are going to be able to ensure that the Clean Energy Transformation Act and our hydro renewable resources are going to be part of our future for as long as we can take care of them.”

SB 6012 has not yet been referred to its next committee.


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