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Washington 2022 Legislative Session Clean Energy Policies Wrap-Up

After a whirlwind 60 days, Washington’s legislators finished the short 2022 session on March 10. Legislators were ambitious with their goals this year and introduced legislation that is typically saved for the longer, odd-year sessions. While there were some climate wins, much work remains to be done on buildings and clean materials. Here’s a rundown of how selected clean energy legislation fared.  

Bills that Made it to the Finish Line

Community Solar: HB 1814 establishes a new Community Solar Expansion Program to increase equitable access to the benefits of renewable energy. The WSU Energy Program will administer the program, which will provide direct benefits to low-income subscribers, low-income service provider subscribers, and tribal and public agency subscribers. This statewide program is funded at $100 million and lasts from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2033.

The bill defines a community solar project as an energy system with a direct current nameplate capacity of between 12kW and 199kW; has at least two low-income subscribers or one low-income service provider; demonstrates that the project will deliver benefits to low-income subscribers; and is located on preferred sites that do not displace critical habitat or productive farmland. A utility’s participation in the program is voluntary.

Siting Laws (EFSEC): HB 1812 aims to modernize the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to meet the state’s clean energy goals. EFSEC was created in 1970 to centralize the siting and permitting for large energy projects. This bill expands EFSEC’s permitting abilities to include other facilities that can opt into the siting process, such as clean energy product manufacturing facilities; storage facilities; renewable natural gas facilities; and renewable or green electrolytic hydrogen facilities.

The bill further directs the Department of Commerce to conduct rural stakeholder meetings and complete a report around the equitable distribution of costs and benefits of energy projects to rural communities. It also directs the Joint Committee of Energy Supply and Energy Conservation to review inequities where large alternative energy projects have been and will be sited, review the Department of Commerce’s report, and review opportunities for economic development assistance.*                                                

Hydrogen: SB 5910 establishes the statewide Office of Renewable Fuels within the Department of Commerce to accelerate the availability and use of renewable hydrogen in Washington. The timing of this bill coincides with funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $8 billion for four regional clean hydrogen hubs throughout the country. This bill directs the Department of Commerce to support a public-private partnership entity to prepare an application for federal funding to develop a regional clean hydrogen hub in Washington.

Move Ahead Washington: SB 5974 approves a transportation package of almost $17 billion, with $5.4 billion from Climate Commitment Act (CCA) funds. These CCA funds will be put toward carbon reduction transportation activities, such as zero-emissions ferry technology and multimodal transportation options.

Buildings: While most of the important clean buildings bills failed to advance (see HB 1770 and HB 1767 below), there was a small win in SB 5722, which adds another category of covered buildings to the 2019 Clean Buildings Act. The Clean Buildings Act set a building performance standard for commercial buildings 50,000 square feet and larger. SB 5722 expands the benchmarking and energy management planning requirements to include smaller commercial buildings (20,000–50,000 square feet) and multifamily residential buildings of50,000 square feet or greater.

Bills that Died

Energy Codes: HB 1770 would have strengthened energy codes by giving local governments the option to adopt a residential reach code. Currently, the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) updates the State Energy Code every three years to align with state emissions reductions goals. This bill would have required the SBCC to develop an optional residential reach code, allowing cities, towns, and counties to go beyond the minimum requirements. The bill faced opposition from the gas industry and building sector and did not pass in the Senate after passing in the House.

Targeted Electrification: HB 1767 would have clarified that customer-owned utilities, such as municipal electric utilities and public utility districts (PUDs), could offer incentives and other programs to help customers switch to electric appliances. This would provide customers incentives to buy appliances such as efficient heat pumps. While private utilities can already offer these incentives, this bill would have clarified that public utilities can also provide financial incentives for customer electrification projects if they are mutually beneficial to both the utility and the customers.

Supporters of the bill pointed to health risks of indoor gas appliances and argued that the bill would improve customer choice and lower the costs of electric appliances like heat pumps. Opponents raised concerns about the load on the electric grid; questioned whether financing for energy conservation could be used for energy conversion; and cited the failure to consider stranded gas assets, among other issues that members of the gas industry and building sector raised. The bill did not make it to a floor vote in the House.  

EITEs: HB 1682 would have helped define compliance pathways for Emissions Intensive Trade Exposed Industries (EITEs) under the CCA. The CCA’s Cap-and-Invest program ensures that greenhouse gas emissions remain in line with statewide limits. EITEs, which are primarily manufacturing facilities, have special consideration under the CCA due to significant competition for their products and the high carbon emissions they produce. This bill, requested by the Department of Ecology, would have established a compliance trajectory for EITE facilities to achieve their emissions reduction limits in the long term by giving them no-cost emissions allowances in the short term. The bill went through various forms and made it out of committee, but ultimately did not pass in the House.

Buy Clean and Buy Fair Washington Act: HB 1103 would have required firms to submit Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and information about labor standards for materials used in constructing and renovating publicly funded buildings. The bill would have covered structural concrete, structural steel, reinforcing steel, and engineered wood. In addition, firms would have had to submit health certifications for products; any steps taken to ensure high labor standards throughout the supply chain; and reports on working conditions at production facilities.

Another provision would have directed the University of Washington College of Built Environments to create a public database for covered projects. While HB 1103 did not pass, Washington’s 2021-2023 operating budget funded the University of Washington’s Carbon Leadership Forum and the Department of Commerce to create the database and conduct a case study analysis. Furthermore, the 2021-2023 capital budget funded two Buy Clean and Buy Fair pilot projects through the University of Washington. (For an explanation of Buy Clean and Buy Fair policies, see this post).

Looking Ahead

Although some progress was made this session, significant work remains for building and industrial decarbonization, two of CETI’s programmatic focuses in 2022. Operation 2030 charts a path to scaling building decarbonization, starting with the time-critical strategic decisions and actions that must happen between 2022–2025. Regarding clean materials, CETI is collaborating with the Washington BlueGreen Alliance, the University of Washington’s Carbon Leadership Forum, and SEI US to present a Clean Materials Manufacturing summit this summer. The work we do with these two initiatives over the coming months is aimed at helping frame discussions for a successful legislative session in 2023.

Note: The Climate at the Legislature blog offers the complete list of all climate-related legislation considered during the 2022 Washington State Legislative session.

*3/25/22 Update: Governor Inslee partially vetoed HB 1812 before signing it into law, removing the sections related to Commerce's rural stakeholder engagement and report because the legislature did not provide the funding.

Ruby Moore-Bloom

Researcher
Ruby joined the Clean Energy Transition Institute in January 2022 as a Researcher. She is committed to working toward a clean energy future in the Northwest.
FULL BIO & OTHER POSTS

Washington 2022 Legislative Session Clean Energy Policies Wrap-Up

After a whirlwind 60 days, Washington’s legislators finished the short 2022 session on March 10. Legislators were ambitious with their goals this year and introduced legislation that is typically saved for the longer, odd-year sessions. While there were some climate wins, much work remains to be done on buildings and clean materials. Here’s a rundown of how selected clean energy legislation fared.  

Bills that Made it to the Finish Line

Community Solar: HB 1814 establishes a new Community Solar Expansion Program to increase equitable access to the benefits of renewable energy. The WSU Energy Program will administer the program, which will provide direct benefits to low-income subscribers, low-income service provider subscribers, and tribal and public agency subscribers. This statewide program is funded at $100 million and lasts from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2033.

The bill defines a community solar project as an energy system with a direct current nameplate capacity of between 12kW and 199kW; has at least two low-income subscribers or one low-income service provider; demonstrates that the project will deliver benefits to low-income subscribers; and is located on preferred sites that do not displace critical habitat or productive farmland. A utility’s participation in the program is voluntary.

Siting Laws (EFSEC): HB 1812 aims to modernize the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to meet the state’s clean energy goals. EFSEC was created in 1970 to centralize the siting and permitting for large energy projects. This bill expands EFSEC’s permitting abilities to include other facilities that can opt into the siting process, such as clean energy product manufacturing facilities; storage facilities; renewable natural gas facilities; and renewable or green electrolytic hydrogen facilities.

The bill further directs the Department of Commerce to conduct rural stakeholder meetings and complete a report around the equitable distribution of costs and benefits of energy projects to rural communities. It also directs the Joint Committee of Energy Supply and Energy Conservation to review inequities where large alternative energy projects have been and will be sited, review the Department of Commerce’s report, and review opportunities for economic development assistance.*                                                

Hydrogen: SB 5910 establishes the statewide Office of Renewable Fuels within the Department of Commerce to accelerate the availability and use of renewable hydrogen in Washington. The timing of this bill coincides with funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $8 billion for four regional clean hydrogen hubs throughout the country. This bill directs the Department of Commerce to support a public-private partnership entity to prepare an application for federal funding to develop a regional clean hydrogen hub in Washington.

Move Ahead Washington: SB 5974 approves a transportation package of almost $17 billion, with $5.4 billion from Climate Commitment Act (CCA) funds. These CCA funds will be put toward carbon reduction transportation activities, such as zero-emissions ferry technology and multimodal transportation options.

Buildings: While most of the important clean buildings bills failed to advance (see HB 1770 and HB 1767 below), there was a small win in SB 5722, which adds another category of covered buildings to the 2019 Clean Buildings Act. The Clean Buildings Act set a building performance standard for commercial buildings 50,000 square feet and larger. SB 5722 expands the benchmarking and energy management planning requirements to include smaller commercial buildings (20,000–50,000 square feet) and multifamily residential buildings of50,000 square feet or greater.

Bills that Died

Energy Codes: HB 1770 would have strengthened energy codes by giving local governments the option to adopt a residential reach code. Currently, the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) updates the State Energy Code every three years to align with state emissions reductions goals. This bill would have required the SBCC to develop an optional residential reach code, allowing cities, towns, and counties to go beyond the minimum requirements. The bill faced opposition from the gas industry and building sector and did not pass in the Senate after passing in the House.

Targeted Electrification: HB 1767 would have clarified that customer-owned utilities, such as municipal electric utilities and public utility districts (PUDs), could offer incentives and other programs to help customers switch to electric appliances. This would provide customers incentives to buy appliances such as efficient heat pumps. While private utilities can already offer these incentives, this bill would have clarified that public utilities can also provide financial incentives for customer electrification projects if they are mutually beneficial to both the utility and the customers.

Supporters of the bill pointed to health risks of indoor gas appliances and argued that the bill would improve customer choice and lower the costs of electric appliances like heat pumps. Opponents raised concerns about the load on the electric grid; questioned whether financing for energy conservation could be used for energy conversion; and cited the failure to consider stranded gas assets, among other issues that members of the gas industry and building sector raised. The bill did not make it to a floor vote in the House.  

EITEs: HB 1682 would have helped define compliance pathways for Emissions Intensive Trade Exposed Industries (EITEs) under the CCA. The CCA’s Cap-and-Invest program ensures that greenhouse gas emissions remain in line with statewide limits. EITEs, which are primarily manufacturing facilities, have special consideration under the CCA due to significant competition for their products and the high carbon emissions they produce. This bill, requested by the Department of Ecology, would have established a compliance trajectory for EITE facilities to achieve their emissions reduction limits in the long term by giving them no-cost emissions allowances in the short term. The bill went through various forms and made it out of committee, but ultimately did not pass in the House.

Buy Clean and Buy Fair Washington Act: HB 1103 would have required firms to submit Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and information about labor standards for materials used in constructing and renovating publicly funded buildings. The bill would have covered structural concrete, structural steel, reinforcing steel, and engineered wood. In addition, firms would have had to submit health certifications for products; any steps taken to ensure high labor standards throughout the supply chain; and reports on working conditions at production facilities.

Another provision would have directed the University of Washington College of Built Environments to create a public database for covered projects. While HB 1103 did not pass, Washington’s 2021-2023 operating budget funded the University of Washington’s Carbon Leadership Forum and the Department of Commerce to create the database and conduct a case study analysis. Furthermore, the 2021-2023 capital budget funded two Buy Clean and Buy Fair pilot projects through the University of Washington. (For an explanation of Buy Clean and Buy Fair policies, see this post).

Looking Ahead

Although some progress was made this session, significant work remains for building and industrial decarbonization, two of CETI’s programmatic focuses in 2022. Operation 2030 charts a path to scaling building decarbonization, starting with the time-critical strategic decisions and actions that must happen between 2022–2025. Regarding clean materials, CETI is collaborating with the Washington BlueGreen Alliance, the University of Washington’s Carbon Leadership Forum, and SEI US to present a Clean Materials Manufacturing summit this summer. The work we do with these two initiatives over the coming months is aimed at helping frame discussions for a successful legislative session in 2023.

Note: The Climate at the Legislature blog offers the complete list of all climate-related legislation considered during the 2022 Washington State Legislative session.

*3/25/22 Update: Governor Inslee partially vetoed HB 1812 before signing it into law, removing the sections related to Commerce's rural stakeholder engagement and report because the legislature did not provide the funding.

Ruby Moore-Bloom

Researcher
Ruby joined the Clean Energy Transition Institute in January 2022 as a Researcher. She is committed to working toward a clean energy future in the Northwest.
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