Washington Passes Bill Requiring Carbon-Free Electricity

(CN) – Washington state appears one step closer to a carbon neutral electricity grid.

Senate Bill 5116 and the corresponding bill in the House passed on Thursday, with Gov. Jay Inslee —currently campaigning for president with a platform of combating climate change —likely to sign the bill in the near term.

“It’s time to move past the era of carbon into the next generation with modern, 21st-century energy systems using integrated wind, hydro and solar power,” said State Sen. Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat from Seattle who authored the Senate bill.

The two bills would require the Pacific Northwestern state to transition to a carbon neutral energy grid by 2030 and entirely carbon free by 2045.

Experts like Stanford professor Marc Jacobson say a decrease in the price of renewable energies like wind and solar have made such targets economically feasible; however, critics contend energy storage technologies will have to catch up to ensure the grid can reliably meet demand.

“I hope that we don’t have rolling blackouts,” said Republican Washington state Rep. Richard Debolt during the debate in the House. “I would hate to see Washington state enter into something that makes us less competitive, and less effective in the future and puts our resiliency on the line.”

But Gael Tarleton, a Democrat at the statehouse, said the state has mapped out a precise plan for getting to the carbon neutral goals laid out in the bills.

“Washington has the courage to build a 21st century economy beyond coal, beyond fossil fuels, to maintain and build a quality of life for generations to come,” she said.

Washington is well-positioned to move to a carbon neutral grid as it currently relies heavily on hydroelectric power generation, which along with other renewable energy sources accounts for 75% of the state’s electricity production.

The bill means the state will have to make up the remaining 25% in the next 11 years.

The bills were introduced in December.

Should electricity providers fail to meet the regulations, they could be charged as much as $100 per megawatt hour under the new law.

California and Hawaii have passed similar bills requiring a carbon-free grid by 2045. New York lawmakers are mulling a bill with the same requirement with a 2040 deadline.

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