Boehnke bill to reform Energy Independence Act receives public hearing

Measure would streamline utility reporting, save money for ratepayers

On Tuesday, the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee held a public hearing on Sen. Matt Boehnke’s legislation aimed at modernizing Washington’s Energy Independence Act to avoid regulatory duplication and overlap with other laws.

Boehnke, R-Kennewick, is a member of the committee and represents the energy-producing Tri-Cities region.

“We have a lot of clean-energy production in the Tri-Cities, and between nuclear, hydro and biomass, much of the power our utilities produce is already generated in a clean, carbon-free, renewable manner,” said Boehnke.

“Despite this, we know that these producers are still being put in a position where they have to meet the reporting standards of the EIA. This bill is about reducing the costly and redundant administrative burden created by the EIA, which is no longer needed given the move to 100-percent clean energy under the Clean Energy Transformation Act.”

Approved by Washington voters in 2006, the Energy Independence Act, also known as Initiative 937 (I-937), requires electric utilities with 25,000 or more customers to meet energy conservation targets and use eligible renewable resources. Under the EIA, a qualifying utility must complete an annual target of 15% of its load from renewable resources.

The Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), passed in 2019, requires Washington’s electric utilities to meet 100 percent of their retail electric load using non-emitting and renewable resources by January 1, 2045.

Under Senate Bill 5168, the requirement for qualifying utilities to meet annual renewable energy targets under the EIA would be removed, as would be all references to targets throughout state law.

“This bill presents a commonsense approach to approach to clean energy compliance,” testified Steve Taylor, with the Cowlitz Public Utility District. “It removes redundancies and conflicts in renewable energy credit accounting between the EIA and CETA. It retains the EIA’s conservation requirements, which remain central to the realization of our clean energy transformation. It reduces a layer of regulations in achieving CETA’s 100 percent clean standard, which recognizes nearly all renewable and non-emitting resources, rather than a technology-specific subset. And it ensures utilities served primarily by clean hydroelectricity are not required to acquire resources or credits greater than 100 percent of their load.

“It helps takes the complexity out of compliance.”

According to Isaac Kastama, with Franklin and Benton PUDs, one of the big issues that Boehnke’s bill would solve is the need for utilities to exceed 100% clean energy, just to meet the reporting standards of the EIA.

“That was a reoccurring challenge,” he told lawmakers. “Because we had significant hydro resources and nuclear resources, procuring under this target meant we had to exceed our 100 percent standard, and that was one of the things that was critical to us in that CETA discussion.

“This is still an ongoing requirement for the utilities. Today we are 107 percent clean because of this law… So, for communities in rural areas, who are in similar situations, the type of changes proposed by this bill would be of benefit to those communities and help them, because it is a significant ongoing expense. For Benton, for example, it is about four million dollars a year maintaining these targets.”

The Senate energy committee has until Friday to advance SB 5168 for the measure to remain viable this legislative session.