If voters approve Initiative 937 in November, your utility bills will go up. That’s enough reason to vote “no” on I-937, but the mandates in the initiative also are unnecessary for Washingtonians to enjoy clean, renewable energy. Here’s why.
Initiative 937 would force every utility with more than 25,000 customers to acquire 15 percent of its electric energy from a limited list of nonhydropower renewable energy sources by 2020 or pay steep fines and penalties.
Proponents will try to tell you this is the only way to ensure “a clean energy future for Washington,” but what they don’t tell you is that Washington already leads the nation in clean energy.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Washington’s electric industry is ranked 49th lowest in carbon dioxide emissions in the nation! Only Vermont has lower emissions. Nearly 70 percent of our state’s electricity is generated by clean, renewable hydropower – a proven, renewable energy source that proponents intentionally excluded as an approved renewable resource under I-937.
When you cut to the chase,
I-937 is about mandating more wind power – the only proven technology in Washington that qualifies under the measure.
Not surprisingly, the companies that build wind turbines and wind farms have contributed heavily to the million-dollar-plus campaign for I-937. They claim it will save us money, but the facts say something else.
According the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the cost of building and operating wind farms has increased by as much as 70 percent in the last two years. The council reports that the cost of recent wind projects now ranges from $72 to $98 a megawatt hour. By comparison, the cost of existing hydropower is under $30.
So, here’s the bottom line: I-937 will force Washington utilities to sell some of their lower-cost hydropower to California – where it counts as a renewable energy source – in order to build required, higher-cost wind farms. That’s right! Californians will benefit while Washingtonians pay.
The nonpartisan Washington Research Council estimates I-937 will increase utility rates and taxes in Washington by $185 million to $370 million a year. And they conclude I-937 will cost Washington btween 3,600 and 7,100 jobs because of those increased energy costs.
And it could get even more expensive. A federal subsidy for wind power will expire in 2007. If Congress fails to renew the federal production tax credit, the price of wind power will jump another $19 a megawatt hour.
I-937 might seem like a good idea, but it doesn’t make any sense for Washington. Another problem is that wind is an intermittent resource. The wind only blows one-fourth to one-third of the time. The rest of the time, the turbines are idle – consuming rather than producing energy. The American Wind Energy Association ranks Washington 24th in wind capacity, worst in the
Northwest, calling into question whether a 15 percent mandate can be met.
Washington is already a clean, renewable energy state. And our individual utilities are already building wind farms, when and where it makes economic and environmental sense. I-937 will force utilities to make bad decisions and cost us millions of dollars. Vote No on I-937.
Michael B. Early is executive director of Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities.
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