Today, SB 5735 passed the Washington State Senate. This bill represents unprecedented movement towards carbon reduction with support from both parties.
The support of 5735 demonstrates that, whether the motivation is related to climate change, energy security, air quality, growing the economy, or energy efficiency, carbon reduction is a theme that both political parties can embrace. We encourage those concerned about reducing carbon emissions to take a closer look at SB 5735 and to focus their energy on improving it, rather than tearing it down.
Earlier this session, Senate Republicans, including Doug Ericksen, Curtis King, Sharon Brown, and Linda Evans Parlette, joined with Democratic Senators Marilyn Chase and Tim Sheldon to introduce a handful of bills on energy efficiency and carbon reduction. In addition, a bipartisan and bicameral EV (Electric Vehicle) Caucus has put forth a compelling slate of bills to encourage transportation electrification. These legislators include: Senators Fain, Hobbs, Hill, Jayapal, Keiser, Liias, Litzow, McCoy, and Mullet along with Representatives Bergquist, Fitzgibbon, Magendanz, Morris, Muri, Tarleton, and Tharinger.
SB 5735 introduces a new concept called Carbon Reduction Investments. It would give utilities the flexibility to invest in a more diverse set of technologies than currently allowed under I-937. These technologies include electric vehicle charging infrastructure, energy storage, smart grid, the electrification and alternative fuel conversion of transportation, such as public and private fleets.
Notably, WSDOT’s 2014 Washington State EV Action Plan advocates for this new thinking: broadening the definition of “energy conservation” to include not just conservation of electricity, but also of oil. Energy conservation should include replacing oil use in transportation. Electric kilowatts and barrels of oil can both be measured in BTUs and compared for effectiveness and savings. And since it is cost-effective to replace oil with electricity in transportation, while at the same time producing lower carbon emissions, the broader definition of energy conservation will lead to better public policy.
Allowing for Carbon Reduction Investments is consistent with the voter intent of I-937: to reduce fossil fuel usage and provide Washingtonians with cleaner air. It’s also aligned with the Washington Business Alliance’s strategy to lower emissions by building on our state’s natural adantages, leveraging one of the cleanest and most competitively-priced electricity mixes in the nation.
There is room for refining the details of SB 5735. In particular, finding agreement on language that addresses valid low load growth utility concerns, while maintaining the existing I-937 target for others. Linking with other pieces of legislation, we can craft a new vision for our electrical utilities prioritizing greenhouse gas emission reduction through technological innovation, moving away from fixed targets for a limited set of energy sources.
At the Washington Business Alliance, we’ve been working toward a comprehensive solution, with research that supports many of the bills circulating in the legislature. We call our approach the Technology Enabled Market Strategy. It has three major pillars:
- Build on Washington’s natural advantage in clean, affordable electricity;
- Improve efficiency in the built environment, and;
- Stimulate the use of low carbon electricity and fuels in transportation.
The Technology-Enabled Market Strategy is in line with the values of Washington residents. Our manufacturers, food processors, and utilities lead the country and in some industries the world in producing low carbon goods. But we can always do better. Most individuals see energy waste in their own lives too and are looking for ways to improve
Policymakers need to offer solutions that recognize this shared commitment and return the greatest value back to Washington State. Looking at the technology-focused policy ideas currently moving through the legislature, we see the outline of a promising road forward. This legislative session, we hope all will rise to create a bipartisan outcome for carbon reduction.