New rules move Washington State closer to carbon-free electricity


Regulators in Washington State have adopted a package of rules that move the state a step further toward its goal of removing carbon emissions from electric utility services.

The rules were adopted by the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission and implement parts of the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), passed in 2019. CETA requires the state’s electric utilities to eliminate coal-fired electricity by 2026, transition to a carbon-neutral supply by 2030, and source 100% of their electricity from renewable or non-carbon-emitting sources by 2045.

The new rules address utility practices when planning for and acquiring new energy resources, promoting diversity among suppliers and contractors, calculating greenhouse gas content in their resource mix, facilitating public engagement in planning and procurement, assessing impacts of resources on vulnerable communities and establishing caps for utilities’ spending in compliance with CETA.

The commission’s rules apply to the investor-owned utilities operating in Washington: Puget Sound Energy, Avista, and Pacific Power. The state’s Commerce Department developed similar rules that apply to municipal and other consumer-owned utilities.

Three rules

The UTC-approved package contains three separate rules: Purchase of Resources (Docket UE-190837), Energy Independence Act (Docket UE-190652) and Clean Energy Implementation Plans and Integrated Resource Plans (CEIP/IRP) (UE-191023).

Purchase of Resources, Docket: UE-190837
The new rules update utility purchasing practices and require utilities to conduct outreach to minority-owned and other diverse businesses.

Changes include:
• When purchasing new resources, utilities must consider both the energy and non-energy benefits and burdens to highly impacted communities and vulnerable populations.
• Utilities must seek potential bids from underrepresented organizations and bidders, such as minority-, women-, disabled- and veteran-owned businesses to encourage equitable participation in the bidding process.
• For resource contracts by the utilities, the utility must collect and report their contractors’ use of diverse businesses, including but not limited to women-, minority-, disabled- and veteran-owned businesses.
• Where utilities are required to use an independent evaluator, the utility must consult with stakeholders and commission staff when choosing an independent evaluator.
• The independent evaluator’s assessment of resources is expanded to include the benefits and burdens of a resource choice to highly impacted and vulnerable communities.

Clean Energy Implementation Plan/Integrated Resource Plan, Docket: UE-191023
These updated rules provide guidance to investor-owned utilities and their stakeholders as utilities transition from fossil fuels, establishing policy and process changes that incorporate recent advances in the energy industry and improving the IRP process for regulated companies, stakeholders and the public.

Under these rules, utilities will create utility advisory groups to discuss the equitable distribution of benefits and reduction of harm to overburdened communities during the clean energy transition. Additionally, these rules clarify the public participation processes for utilities when developing resource plans and implementation plans.

Energy Independence Act, Docket: UE-190652
In October 2019, the commission initiated a rulemaking to update rules implementing the Energy Independence Act, or EIA, a law established in 2007 by Initiative 937. This act requires utilities over a certain size to provide at least 15% of electricity from renewable energy sources and pursue all cost-effective conservation. These updates incorporate new requirements enacted in CETA and other legislative action, and improve the processes for administering the EIA.

Changes include:
• Adding several definitions included in CETA, notably “energy assistance,” “energy assistance need,” “energy burden” and “low-income.”
• Strengthening rules governing energy conservation programs for low-income customers.
• Amending rules that address the use of renewable energy credits, tradable certificates that represent energy generated by renewable resources.
• Adding a calculation of greenhouse gas content to energy and emissions intensity reports that utilities must file.

The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington.

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