OLYMPIA – The Legislature is considering a bill that would front cash incentives owed by the federal government to public developers of wind farms and other environmentally friendly power projects.
In Washington, that would be Energy Northwest. It operates the Nine Canyon Wind Project south of the Tri-Cities and estimates it had been shorted $5 million through 2006 because Congress hasn’t approved enough money to fund publicly owned projects nationwide.
The Renewable Energy Production Incentive, or REPI, program was set up in 1992 alongside a separate incentive program for private companies that develop clean energy projects. While private developers get tax credits, public developers get cash payments.
And without adequate funding for those payments, projects developed by public entities don’t get equal subsidies and are at a competitive disadvantage, said Jack Baker, Energy Northwest’s vice president for energy business services.
“There are consequences,” Baker told the House Technology, Energy and Communications Committee on Tuesday.
The public power consortium for two years has been pitching a wind project on land south of Reardan near Spokane but has been unable to find suitors. That’s partly due to poorer wind conditions than can be found at Nine Canyon, but Baker said Tuesday that it’s also because of the federal government’s poor track record of funding REPI payments that would help drive down the project’s power costs.
“Without any REPI payments we cannot develop the Reardan wind site,” he said. “We’re not getting that leadership from the federal government so we’re asking the state to step up. It won’t get developed by public power without an incentive.”
House Bill 2994 would require the state to put up the money, then be reimbursed once the federal government makes good on its commitment.
It figures to be a tough lift this session, when lawmakers are eager to hold the line on new spending but “this is a discussion we know is going to have to happen,” said Jim Rowland, a lobbyist for Okanogan PUD, the single largest participant in the Nine Canyon project.
Carrie Dolwick, a policy associate for the green-leaning Northwest Energy Coalition, said subsidy programs have effectively stimulated the market for clean energy projects when they’ve been funded.
“This bill would establish the state as a backstop,” she said.
By Chris Mulick
Herald Olympia Bureau
30 January 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding