New suite of climate laws continue path to 100% clean energy future
Washington’s path to 100% clean electricity by 2045 becomes clearer as Gov. Inslee and lawmakers celebrate achievements of this year’s legislative session
Building on landmark climate laws like the emissions-slashing Climate Commitment Act and the requirements of the Clean Energy Transformation Act to get to 100% clean energy by 2045, legislators passed more than half a dozen bills this session that put the state closer to achieving its energy needs and create more jobs while ebbing the tide of climate change.
With laws on the books requiring the state drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, policymakers are now implementing the strategies to get there. During the next two years they will be aided by more than $2 billion for state investments in clean energy, transportation, and natural habitat management and restoration, thanks to revenue generated by the state’s new cap-and-invest program.
“This funding will be used to make homes more energy efficient, electrify transportation, invest in renewable energy, aid farmers in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality in communities overburdened by pollution, and more,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.
The governor signed seven climate-related bills passed this session at an event Wednesday at Horn Rapids Solar Farm in Richland, a solar energy production and storage facility established in 2020 with financial help from the state’s Clean Energy Fund. The facility provides energy to the city of Richland and offers workforce training for solar and battery storage technicians.
“This is energy that will power all corners of our state, slashing emissions, creating jobs, and making our communities cleaner and healthier at the same time,” Inslee said.
The path to 100% clean electricity
Moving Washington off dirty fossil fuels requires a holistic approach to transition industry and infrastructure away from these harmful energy sources. Growing renewable energy sources requires planning, and HB 1216, requested by Inslee and sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, creates a more coordinated and efficient permitting process for state agencies to follow.
Fitzgibbon said the bill helps “ensure that we’re able to build the clean energy facilities we need to power our clean energy transition.”
Legislators also passed another governor-request bill that will let the state better plan for the renewable energy transition and increase capacity in the state’s electrical grid. SB 5165, sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyễn, doubles the timeline required for transmission planning from 10 years to 20 years. It also requires transmission planners consider renewable energy projects in their work.
“Washington is leading the way toward a clean energy future, but that is not possible without transmission lines. This bill guides us to a thoughtful and streamlined way to implement our goals,” Nguyễn said when the Senate passed his bill in March.
The Legislature also passed Rep. Beth Doglio’s HB 1416, which addresses a gap in the Clean Energy Transformation Act to ensure large industrial energy consumers use renewable energy for their electricity sources.
Supporting climate-related work and service opportunities
The transition to all renewable energy is creating countless career and service opportunities across the state. The governor requested HB 1176 to expand climate-related service opportunities, create a new Climate Corps Network, and help connect more people to these programs. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Vandana Slatter, also creates a workforce advisory committee to support the creation of clean energy jobs and the transition of workers into these growing fields. It directs the state to partner with labor groups and businesses to prepare and train workers for clean energy jobs.
The new law will help make sure communities aren’t left behind by the transition, including communities that have historically faced barriers to economic opportunity.
“The goal of this bill is to turn the tide on the climate crisis while also extending service opportunities to diverse communities, young adults, veterans, and our diverse workforce,” Slatter said when the bill passed committee in January. “Transitioning into a clean energy economy requires a comprehensive approach. A large part of that is developing the highly skilled workforce to build and maintain emerging clean technology.”
Planning for climate impacts before disaster strikes
On Wednesday, Inslee also signed HB 1181 to improve the state’s response to climate change by updating the Growth Management Act with climate change and resiliency goals for local governments. GMA is the comprehensive land use planning framework for counties and cities in Washington.
The bill, requested by Inslee, integrates climate change into the state’s planning framework and requires local governments take meaningful action to address climate change by supporting greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and foster resiliency to climate impacts and natural hazards, among other requirements.
The legislation offers local governments help, guidance and funding from the state to help them along the way. It also emphasizes the incorporation of strong environmental justice principles in the planning as well.
“Housing, transportation and energy use are intertwined,” said bill sponsor Rep. Davina Duerr when she introduced the bill. “Planning proactively not only saves taxpayer money, but gives our children a healthier and more sustainable future to raise their own children and grandchildren. This legislation will support local governments — our cities and counties — do this smart planning.”
Expanding access to more sustainable fuel sources
The governor also signed policies Wednesday that support more sustainable fuels for transportation on the road and through the air.
Sen. Andy Billig’s SB 5447 requires the Department of Ecology to establish a pathway for sustainable aviation fuel in its Clean Fuels program. The bill also provides tax incentives to encourage the production and use of these fuels, helping Washington lower its total greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, jet fuel contributes 9% to 12% of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
“Our state is already at the forefront of the aviation industry, and we should also be a leader in the development of cleaner fuels for those same airplanes,” Billig said after the Senate passed the bill.
HB 1236, sponsored by Rep. David Hackney, authorizes all public transit agencies to produce, use, sell or distribute green electrolytic hydrogen and renewable hydrogen. The bill, which passed both houses with unanimous support, helps build green hydrogen fuel infrastructure for public and private entities in urban and rural areas, and will support transitioning buses from diesel to cleaner fuel.
“I can feel the energy of hope and optimism today, and that energy is only outmatched by the added renewable power we’re going to be generating here in Washington thanks to the legislation we’re signing today,” Inslee said.