Washington State Commits to 100% Clean Energy

Reading time: 3 minutes
27 June 2019

Washington state, the North American Co-Chair for the Under2 Coalition, recently passed transformative legislation that require Washington utilities to transition to carbon-neutral electricity by 2030 and commit to sourcing 100% of the state’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2045.

The legislation includes a deadline to completely phase out coal use by 2025 and aims to end all reliance on natural gas and fossil fuels as a source of electricity. In effect, this means that utilities must make the switch to non-emitting and renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind, and hydropower, while increasing energy efficiency overall 

What’s it all about?

Washington has a long history of acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the implementation of renewable energy and green buildings. The state has prioritized increasing the amount of jobs in the green economy, and this recent legislation aims to address social and economic justice issues that might arise as a result of phasing out fossil fuels.

The legislation includes provisions to protect low-income communities so that everyone benefits from the transition to clean energy, such as a requirement that utilities provide energy assistance to low-income customers. The law also addresses health vulnerabilities by informing the implementation of new standards and regulations with a Department of Health impact analysis on environmental and health disparities. Furthermore, it authorizes the state utility commission to reform the utility business model by shifting from the traditional return-on-capital-investment-based model to a performance-based model that takes into account key metrics, including carbon reduction and equity. 

Challenges

While the objectives set out in Washington’s clean energy legislation are supported by clear implementation strategies, the state will still face challenges to achieve these goals. The transition of the state’s electricity to clean energy sources must also consider the increased demand on the electric grid as more electric vehicles (EVs) hit the road. Indeed, transportation is one of Washington’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and so promoting EVs will be an essential component of any plan for a green economy.

In addition, and in order to maintain a resilient power grid, public utilities must adopt energy storage technologies to complement the increased dependency on renewables Despite these obstacles, Washington is ready to join the ranks of other states leading the U.S. toward a clean energy future.  

A clean energy wave

Washington is the fifth U.S. state or territory to pass 100% clean energy legislation - after Hawaii, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Puerto Rico, with several other states poised to follow suit. This momentum is aided by the fact that, for the first time, the U.S.’s generating capacity of renewable energy has surpassed that of coal.

At a time when the federal government is failing to be a leader in climate policy, many U.S. states and cities are stepping up to the plate with bold objectives for reducing emissions and expanding clean energy. 12 U.S. states, including Washington, and 14 U.S. cities or counties are members of the Under2 Coalition, a global network of ambitious subnational governments committed to keeping global temperature rises to well below 2°C.  

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