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Still Smoking In Washington

In a recent blog, I looked into two bills currently circling the halls of Washington state government that could effectively kill solar leasing and neuter the state’s successful net metering program. The article must have struck a nerve, because the author and sponsors of the bills responded with incredulity, spin, and a barrage of tweets directed at yours truly.

But rather than engage in a social media tete-a-tete, I thought I’d stick to the facts. Those facts show that HB 2045 by Democratic Rep. Jeff Morris — whose work is “internationally recognized,” according to his Twitter bio — would prevent Washington from capitalizing on millions of dollars in private investment from solar leasing.

In case you need a refresher: HB 2045 would make Washington one of the most anti-solar states in the country. The bill would eliminate net metering — a policy on the books in 44 states that gives rooftop solar customers retail credit for the surplus power they provide to the grid — and potentially subject those consumers to excessive new taxes. It would also force solar leasing companies to follow unnecessary and duplicative regulations that will increase costs and limit customer financing options.

Meanwhile, other states with strong leasing and net metering policies are reaping the benefits. Recent studies show that third-party ownership of rooftop solar installations has taken off over the past three years thanks to policies that HB 2045 would roll back. In some states, including Washington’s western neighbors like California, Arizona, and Colorado, the market share for leased installations has more than doubled since 2011.

This shift has brought with it millions of dollars in private investment, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, and increasing the states’ tax base, thereby providing these states with additional revenue to fund core services like schools and the social safety net. The expansion of the market has also helped make solar more and more affordable for medium- and lower-income consumers, putting us on the verge of achieving critical mass in the fight against fossil fuel consumption and climate change.

As we continue the transition into a cleantech economy, it’s perplexing to see a typically progressive state like Washington – and a Democratic legislator – potentially taking a step backwards on energy policy. It’s even more disturbing to see them double down on their flawed policy proposals, all while claiming to represent the long-term interests of expanding renewable energy resources and protecting our environment.

Perhaps Rep. Morris and his industry sponsors would reconsider if they read polling from across the nation that consistently shows growing support for net metering and rooftop solar among likely voters. I can’t imagine voters in the Great Northwest would feel differently, especially when they learn about the economic value that solar leasing provides, value that their elected leaders are leaving on the table in the name of protecting the status quo.

 
 
 
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Written By

is an independent media strategist based in San José, CA. You can read his many musings on Twitter @pjallen2.

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