A three year legislative deadlock between utilities, solar installers and public interest groups was broken today, as House Bill 2346 passed out of the Technology & Economic Develop Committee. Representative Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon), chair of the committee, was the lead sponsor of the legislation.
“I’ve worked on this policy and many others during my legislative service, and it was far easier when no cared because there was no money in solar. Now that there is money, the competing special interest groups made reauthorizing this important program extremely difficult,” said Morris.
“The bottom line is that encouraging local consumers to use solar energy is not just good for the environment – doing so provides local, family-wage jobs in an emerging industry,” added Morris.
The legislation would change Washington’s solar incentive rate structure and eligibility requirements. The generous incentives currently in statute largely benefit existing users, but make it cost-prohibitive to expand the program. The reforms will make the system easier to understand and manage while expanding access to local solar energy for more Washingtonians.
“When we started this discussion we were still in the great recession. The price of solar has since plummeted, and the rate at which Washingtonians are using solar has increased over 100 percent. We are overpaying and the current program is expiring, so now is the time to authorize while making necessary changes,” said Morris.
During the discussions around this issue, many utilities raised concerns that consumers were changing utilities’ business model.
“I know that some fear exists amongst our utilities about the change that is happening and I promise that we will address those issues. They must be dealt with separately from this legislation though,” said Morris.
“I am proud of the 11-2 committee vote and work of my Republican colleagues like Rep. Norma Smith who authored the section of the end of life of solar panels to make a better policy.”
“Its past time that we updated our laws to make local solar power accessible and affordable for everyone, not just the people who are benefiting now from a limited number of incentives,” Morris further stated.