State agencies adopt rules to implement Washington’s 100% clean electricity law

New rules put state on path to greenhouse gas emission-free electricity by 2045

Washington state has passed another milestone on the path to 100% clean electricity. The Washington State Department of Commerce and Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) adopted administrative rules for implementation of the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), the state law passed last year requiring an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

The UTC and Commerce adopted the rules late last week after 18 months of work with stakeholders who represent the interests of residential and business customers, environmental and labor advocates, low-income and disadvantaged communities, and electric utilities.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to a packed crowd in a Seattle neighborhood on before he signed the Clean Energy Transformation Act along with a suite of unprecedented clean energy bills. (Office of the Governor photo)

The UTC rules apply to the investor-owned utilities operating in Washington — Puget Sound Energy, Avista and Pacific Power. The Commerce rules apply to 64 electric utilities in Washington, including municipal utilities, public utility districts and rural electric cooperatives.

Electric utilities in Washington must eliminate coal-fired electricity by the end of 2025, transition to a carbon-neutral supply of electricity by 2030, and source 100% of their electricity from renewable or non-carbon-emitting sources by 2045.

“This rule is one of the key pieces of one our most important policies for building Washington’s clean energy future. Ensuring that all customers and communities can have equal opportunity to participate in the benefits of 100% clean electricity was a top priority in developing the new rules,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. ”We appreciate the collaborative work by advocates, utilities and agency staff to develop these rules on time and with broad input.”

“These rules are the product of months of work by our two agencies, with valuable input from utilities and industry groups, consumer and equity advocates, environmental organizations, and others. We have made tremendous progress towards our clean energy future and look forward to working more with these stakeholders in the coming year,” said UTC Chair Dave Danner.

CETA sets the most aggressive timeline for 100% clean power in the country and contains several “groundbreaking” provisions. The Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee enacted CETA in 2019 and directed the two agencies to adopt rules by the end of 2020 providing additional implementation details. Key legislative requirements of CETA include:

· Utilities must ensure an equitable distribution of benefits from the transition to clean energy for all customers and must make programs and funding available for energy assistance to low-income customers.

· Tax incentives for renewable energy development that encourage developers to pay prevailing wages and use a community workforce agreement or project labor agreement

· Electric utilities must adopt CETA implementation plans by the end of 2021 with targets for achieving CETA’s clean electricity requirements and prepare revised plans every four years.

· By the end of 2025, utilities must remove all coal-fired electric generation from their resource portfolios.

· By 2030, utilities must use a portfolio of electric resources that is greenhouse gas neutral. Under this standard, at least 80% of electricity must be from renewable sources or non-emitting power, and any use of natural gas to generate electricity must be offset by emissions reductions elsewhere.

· By 2045, utilities must use a resource portfolio that is 100% renewable or nuclear to serve Washington customers, with no provision for offsets.

The new rules address utility practices when planning for and acquiring new energy resources, promoting diversity among suppliers and contractors, calculating greenhouse gas content in their resource mix, facilitating public engagement in planning and procurement, assessing impacts of resources on vulnerable communities, and establishing caps for utilities’ spending in compliance with CETA.

CETA allows a utility to delay its progress toward these standards based on cost considerations. The adopted rules provide detailed requirements that must be followed by utilities that opt to use the cost provision.

Both the UTC and Commerce will continue their work in 2021 to implement CETA. Upcoming work includes possible rules to ensure that electricity purchased in interstate wholesale markets meets CETA’s clean energy standards.

Commerce’s rules and more information are posted on the agency’s CETA webpage: commerce.wa.gov/CETA.

Additional information on the UTC’s CETA rules and implementation is posted on the commission’s CETA webpage: www.utc.wa.gov/CETA.

The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.

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