The Energy Independence Act requires electric utilities serving at least 25,000 retail customers to use renewable energy and energy conservation. There are 18 utilities subject to the EIA. They provide 80 percent of the electricity sold to Washington retail customers.
Utilities must pursue all conservation that is cost-effective, reliable and feasible. They need to identify the conservation potential over a 10-year period and set two-year targets.
The EIA establishes a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) with renewable energy targets as a percentage of customer load. The targets increase over time, from 3 percent in 2012, to 9 percent in 2016, to 15 percent in 2020. Eligible resources include water, wind, solar energy, geothermal energy, landfill gas, wave, ocean or tidal power, gas for sewage treatment plants and biodiesel fuel and biomass energy.
Many of the renewable resources have restricted eligibility. For example, hydro eligibility is limited to incremental generation due to efficiency improvements. made after 1999, and the hydro project must be owned by one of the 18 EIA-qualifying utilities. Hydro projects in pipes and canals does not have restricted ownership, but it must be located in Washington. Other renewable resources must be located in the Pacific Northwest or delivered to Washington on a real-time basis.
A utility is not required to meet a renewable energy target if it spends at least 4 percent of its retail revenue requirement on the incremental cost of renewable energy and renewable energy credits. The cost cap for a utility that has no load growth is 1 percent.
Oversight and Reporting
The Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) oversees compliance for investor-owned utilities. The governing boards of municipal utilities and public utility districts are responsible for compliance, with auditing by the State Auditor and any enforcement by the Attorney General. Cooperative utilities are independently audited.
Commerce collects annual reports from the utilities on EIA activities and issues advisory opinions when requested. Commerce is also the state administrator for the renewable energy credit tracking system, the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS).