Currently, electric utilities in Washington that serve more than 25,000 customers are required to obtain the following percentages of their electricity from new renewable resources:
- At least 3% by January 1, 2012
- At least 9% by January 1, 2015
- At least 15% by January 1, 2020
This has been the case since the passage of the Washington Energy Independence Act in 2006. The current Legislature has introduced a bill which, if passed, would essentially wipe out these RPS requirements. SB 5563 — which was introduced in the Washington State Legislature on January 31, 2011 — plainly states its intention of “temporarily suspending provisions of the energy independence act during periods of economic downturn.” If SB 5563 passes, qualifying utilities would be deemed to have met the 2012 target and, from 2015, the target for any year in which the the Washington unemployment rate goes above six percent. Furthermore, utilities would be deemed to have met their renewable target not only for that year but for four subsequent years, regardless of the unemployment rate during the look back period.
A historical look at Washington’s unemployment rate shows that a look back period for four years would be able to eliminate the RPS standards in even the most prosperous economic times. For example, Washington state’s unemployment rate for the past 20 years was below 6% during only five calendar years (1998, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007) and never for more than three consecutive years. That means if SB 5563 had been in effect for the past two decades — decades that included some of the most robust economic times this generation has known — at no time would utilities have been required to meet the renewable energy requirements of the EIA. Given where the U.S. economy currently stands, it’s highly unlikely SB 5563 would play out any differently for the next 20 years, much less between now and 2020.
Washington SB 5563 is sponsored by Sen. Jerome Delvin (R-8th Dist.), Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-9th Dist.), Sen. Mike Hewitt (R-16th Dist.), Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-15th Dist.), and Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-35th Dist.) and was referred to the Environment, Water & Energy Committee on January 31, 2011.
 Not seasonally adjusted.