We knew this day was coming but still somehow hoped a voice of reason would provide a solution to a dilemma now faced by power companies.
Washington voters approved an initiative in 2006 that required power companies to create green energy or buy credits from others who do. And the first mandate, requiring many utilities to purchase 3 percent of their power from renewable sources, kicks in this month.
Unfortunately, hydropower isn’t considered renewable under the initiative. If it were, every utility in the state already would meet the mandate.
Instead, some power companies will now be forced to buy energy they don’t need to meet the required renewable energy mandates voters demanded. The cheaper hydropower will be sold elsewhere, probably California.
The result will be a hit to your pocketbook, as utilities have to buy the unnecessary but required more expensive green energy from wind turbines and other sources.
For example, wind energy costs Benton PUD $57 per megawatt hour at current prices, while hydroelectric energy costs $27 per megawatt hour.
Guess who pays the difference?
Unlike many states, Washington relies on water for as much as 70 percent of its electrical power, reducing its dependence on fossil fuels.
We’re wondering if voters who supported Initiative 937 are starting to rethink their position. Maybe they missed some of the fine print or the editorials warning of high costs and short benefits.
These mandates just don’t make sense in our region where hydropower is abundant and the Columbia River hasn’t dried up in the hundreds of years folks have known of its existence. That makes it a renewable resource.
When companies build wind farms that we don’t need – wasting land and resources in the process – just to meet the demands of this initiative, it’s bad for the environment.
We don’t care how green the energy plant may be, it makes no sense from an environment perspective to build facilities we don’t need.
Think about the carbon footprint of the big trucks needed to haul those wind turbine blades down the road. Don’t forget the pilot cars that have to guide the monstrous pieces of equipment, or that it takes multiple loads to get all the parts to the often pristine hillsides that are scarred by roads cut to get the turbines to the top.
Environmentalists laud the initiative for our state’s thriving green-power industry, touting a $7.5 billion investment in the state as a result. Figures that grand sound like a whole lot of construction projects to us, with a walloping impact on the environment as part of the development process.
It would be one thing if green energy mandates were displacing coal-fired generators, but they’re instead diverting one form of clean energy to other regions and replacing it with more costly, less reliable sources.
And this is just the beginning. If the initiative remains intact as voters approved, utilities will have to have 15 percent renewable energy by 2020.
Some of our lawmakers are on the right path, attempting to include hydropower added after 1999 to the list of qualifying renewable energy sources. But that excludes the bulk of hydropower in the region.
Energy created from biomass would be included under the proposal too, helping companies with pulp and paper mills. The bill also would postpone the mandates by a year, giving utilities some time to make a case for exemptions if they don’t need additional power.
But earlier proposed changes to the initiative were derailed in a bitter battle in 2009 by opposition from lawmakers on the west side of the state.
Both sides have said they want to avoid a similar fight this time around, but acknowledged the issues haven’t changed.
Environmentalists and cash-hungry wind-energy companies say the intent of the law was to be innovative and create new sources of energy, not craft a law that takes into account existing sources.
And in some areas in the nation that kind of thinking just might make sense. But here we already have more power than we need and a whole bunch of water to maintain that luxury indefinitely.
We shouldn’t have to pay higher rates for something we don’t need simply because it’s got a “green” label on it. Hydropower is about as green as it gets and the law should be amended to make sense to Washington.
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