On January 16, 2020, the Washington State House Environment Committee held a hearing on HB 2248, the community solar bill. Most organizations supported the bill as a major contribution to Washington’s climate policy. A companion bill, SB 6223, had a hearing January 22 in the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology (see arguments below). HB 2248 passed the House and Senate and is awaiting signature by the governor.
House Hearing, January 16
The main opposition came from utilities, including Tacoma Public Utility District (PUD), Snohomish PUD, Avista Corporation and Puget Sound Energy. They did not oppose the bill as a whole but asserted that the administrative provisions (Sections 6, 7, and 8) would be cumbersome and conflict with some existing programs. The representative of the Washington Policy Center opposed the bill because, he claimed, the cost of solar power in dark and rainy Washington was too high – $1600 for each tonne of carbon reduced. (NOTE: Please provide feedback in the comment section below if you have conflicting data.)
Support came from Solar Installers of Washington, the youth of the Olympia Community Solar program, Washington State University (WSU, which administers the program), League of Women Voters, Carbon Washington and the Sierra Club. David Mendoza of Front and Centered, a group representing communities of color, supported the bill but questioned its definition of nonprofit groups. The current definition seems to exclude churches as certified program managers and he called for expansion of the definition. Churches in low to moderate income areas would be particularly good locations.
Senate Hearing, January 22
Olympia Community Solar program supports the bill, which will expand access to solar. It requires 40% access for low-moderate income subscribers. The intent is provide energy assistance for low-income households. Department of Commerce: State Energy Office approves community solar but concerned with provisions that might conflict with existing programs, so we are working with the proponents. San Juan County Council would like to make its solar projects community solar and allocate some energy for low- and moderate-income families. Solar Installers of Washington supports the bill, which allows wider access to solar. WSU director of the current program has background and administrative staff to implement 6223.
Opposition or neutral
PSE (Puget Sound Energy) has 19 community solar projects, and is comfortable working with the program, local governments and tribes. PSE supports intent of the program but opposes some language in bill because of metering problems. Snohomish PUD is neutral, supports projects but is concerned about meter aggregation. Washington Public Utilities Association is troubled by meter aggregation, a form of net metering where utilities would have to pay users. Tacoma PUD is opposed to the current version of bill because of metering problems and administrative complexities. Avista Corp. opposes bill because of net metering provisions. Pacific Power Corp. asserted that the bill is overly complicated, and opposes it because of expansion of net metering.
Action: You can take action on these bills by clicking on the links, HB 2488 and SB 6223, and clicking on the button “Comment on this Bill.” You will need to put in some personal information to reach your representatives. Check boxes for the two house members for the house bill 2248, and check the box for the senator for senate bill 6223. Click on the “Support” button and then put in the comment section a request to expand the definition of project managers to include churches.