Solar

Washington State Introduces Feed-in Tariff

Washington State legislators have upped the ante on the West Coast’s march toward renewable energy feed laws with the introduction of HB 1086. The bill by Representatives John McCoy (D-38th), Representative Maralyn Chase (D-32nd), Representative Zachary Hudgins (D-11th), and Representative Jeff Morris (D-40th) was introduced mid January amidst a flurry of bills calling for feed-in tariffs in the Washington State Legislature.

California has previously been the focus of media interest as the legislative and administrative process grinds on toward feed-in tariffs in the Golden State. In December, presiding members of the California Energy Commission recommended that the state move immediately toward feed-in tariffs differentiated by technology and based on the cost of generation plus a reasonable profit. California’s Public Utility Commission will hold a workshop on the CEC’s proposal February 10th.

Oregon’s Governor, Ted Kulongoski, has meanwhile thrown a bill into the hopper that includes a tepid proposal for a pilot feed-in tariff program–and that only for solar energy.

Unlike Oregon’s proposal, Washington State’s HB 1086 calls for a full system of feed-in tariffs for all renewable energy technologies. The bill is modeled after Germany’s highly successful Renewable Energy Sources Act and includes differentiated tariffs not only for solar energy but also for wind energy as well.

On January 28, 2009 a public hearing was held by the House Committee on Technology and Energy & Communications. Representative McCoy chairs the committee.

In a further sign of political support for the bill, co-sponsor Hudgins is Majority Floor Leader, and co-sponsor Morris is Speaker Pro Tempore.

Washington State is among only three states and one province with any form of feed-in tariffs in North America. Several Wisconsin utilities offer limited feed-in tariffs for certain technologies. California offers a basic feed-in tariff that has been largely ineffective, according to data from the California Energy Commission. Ontario has a partially differentiated system of feed-in tariffs and 1,500 MW of contracts since the program went into effect. However, only 50 MW have been installed in the province under the program.

The existing Washington State program uses a sliding scale of payments based on the degree of domestic content in the renewable energy system. The program has resulted in the installation of about 1 MW of solar PV in the state. The policy is the brainchild of Mike Nelson of the Northwest Solar Center.

Nelson, among others, testified at the hearing on HB 1086. Nelson is Washington State’s feed-in tariff authority and is on the steering committee of the North American Alliance for Renewable Energy. The Alliance is promoting feed-in tariffs across the US and Canada.

Several states introduced feed-in tariff legislation in 2008, and several states have introduced or will re-introduce bills this legislative session, including Minneosta, Michigan, and Indiana. Several other states are considering such legislation. Ontario is expected to introduce its Green Energy Act, a major revision of its current program, late this winter.