Initiative 937 is an unnecessary government mandate that is going to increase your utility bill. So vote no on I-937.
I say this upfront because not everybody reads articles completely. No matter what else you read about I-937, remember this: If I-937 passes, we all will pay for it.
Initiative 937 forces utilities with more than 25,000 customers to acquire 15 percent of your electricity from a list of certain renewable energy sources by 2020 or face stiff fines and penalties. These fines will ultimately be passed on to you, the ratepayer. Let’s say it again: Your power bill will go up if I-937 is passed.
In the coming days, you’re likely to hear a lot of enticing messages trying to lure you to support I-937. The proponents will deploy the siren’s call of a “cleaner, healthier” future. But I-937 isn’t necessary because Washington already gets the vast majority of its electricity from clean, renewable energy – hydropower. If the proponents of I-937 included hydropower as one of the approved renewable energy sources in their initiative, we would not be having this debate.
Washington is the second-cleanest energy producing state in the nation, only behind Vermont. But, remarkably, the sponsors of I-937 want to force utilities to replace our current low-cost hydropower with more expensive resources that are not always there when we need them most. California, which counts hydropower as a renewable resource, is actually considering policies that would promote importing cheap Washington hydropower. So, we, Washington ratepayers, could end up spending more to help California ratepayers lower their bills. This makes no sense at all.
The Department of Energy estimates Washington customers currently spend $4.64 billion for electricity. To meet the mandates of I-937, customers will be forced to spend up to $370 million more per year. Those costs could increase dramatically if you consider that wind generation is heavily subsidized by a federal production tax credit that expires at the end of next year. If the credit is not renewed by Congress, it will cost that much more for utilities to bring it to Washington under the I-937 mandate.
Costs will increase further if the already limited sites for wind turbines in Washington are restricted because they are located in areas populated by raptors such as golden eagles and hawks, or are in migrating bird flyways or are in places where citizens object, such as near Ellensburg.
Increased cost to ratepayers, both families and businesses, is the most common reason that so many utilities throughout the state are taking the highly unusual step of publicly opposing a statewide ballot measure. During signature gathering for the initiative, the Washington Public Utility Districts Association narrowly voted to endorse I-937. But as the complex and flawed details of the initiative are becoming known, not one single electricity provider in the state has come forward to support it.
Another important consequence of I-937 that the proponents fail to mention is unemployment. The high electricity costs passed on to businesses will result in thousands of layoffs. The Washington Research Council, a non-partisan organization that analyzes proposed public policy, estimates that if I-937 passes, 3,600 to 7,100 Washington residents will lose their jobs – especially in the manufacturing sector.
Finally, the initiative is simply unnecessary. The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly applies here. Washington already is increasing its use of the additional types of renewable energy sources that the proponents envision. Currently, wind projects totaling 4,800 megawatts are proposed throughout the Bonneville Power Administration region, and that is good news. Those proposed projects surpass the America Wind Energy Association’s estimate of Washington’s wind energy potential, which is 3,740 megawatts. Wind projects should go forward as they become economically feasible, not as part of a forced arbitrary mandate.
The Association of Washington Business represents more than 6,000 employers across our state who provide more than 600,000 jobs. Our members range from large businesses to small “mom and pop” operations. We support solar, tidal, biomass and wind power and all forms of renewable energy. We don’t support arbitrary, expensive, unnecessary and unworkable government mandates.
It’s no wonder that a majority of Washington legislators have opposed this plan for our energy future in each of the past six years. Now that it has been initiated to the ballot, we should oppose it as well.
Vote no on I-937. It’s a flawed initiative that we can’t afford to pass.
By Don C. Brunell, Guest Columnist
Don C. Brunell is president of Association of Washington Business.
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