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Lawmakers seek to change state clean energy law

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 15, 2013 at 11:05 am •  Published: February 15, 2013

At a committee hearing Tuesday, Grays Harbor Public Utility District and others testified in support of Senate Bill 5648 that would allow utilities to bank energy they conserve above their targets and apply it to future conservation targets. It also says utilities that have enough power would not have to meet a 937 target.

"What's happening is that utilities are having to purchase credits that they can't even use to the tune of millions of dollars," said Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, sponsor of SB5648, who referred to her bill as the "no buy before need."

Environmental groups oppose the bill, saying it would undermine the law. They say 937 has created jobs, brought billions of dollars in clean-energy investments, and stimulated local economies.

Changing the law would impact the "fundamental goals of the law, which is to stimulate the market for new development of renewable energy," said Nancy Hirsch, policy director for the NW Energy Coalition, which helped write 937.

Some utilities, such as Puget Sound Energy and Avista Corp., did not support the bill, noting they would be at a disadvantage because they already made long-term investments in wind and other renewable projects to comply with the law.

Business owners and others told lawmakers Tuesday that 937 has resulted in higher rates for consumers and created burdens for businesses.

"It can be argued that these are investments in the future, but the future doesn't do much good for someone who can't pay their electric bill today," said Tim Boyd with Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities.

But 937 supporters pointed out that a multitude of factors contribute to rate increases.

Another bill heard Tuesday, Senate Bill 5438, allows utilities that conserve more electricity than required by law to bank that excess and apply it toward meeting future targets. Officials from utilities such as Seattle City Light, Tacoma Power and Cowlitz Public Utility District spoke in favor of it.