Washington reestablishes its solar incentive program

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For the first time since 2018, Washington state has a solar energy incentive program, Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1814, into law on March 30th, which was first proposed by Representatives Sharon Shewmake and Liz Berry.

Aimed at expanding the opportunities for low-income residents to access renewable energy through an increased focus on installing community solar projects in the state, HB 1814 creates a new $100 million incentive program, beginning in 2023, that will provide funding for low-income households and low-income service providers’ installing solar. Like the state’s previous solar incentive programs, Washington State University (WSU) Energy Extension will manage the $100 million in funding, providing grants to community solar projects around the state.

“Everyone needs to be a part of the green energy future,” said Shewmake. “In the past, solar energy incentive programs have primarily benefited people who can dole out cash for the panels and installation. We can do more to include everyone in the transition to a green economy and together, with this bill, we will.”

From 2017 to 2018, Washington State ran a rooftop solar incentive program, through WSU’s Energy Program, which provided $110 million to customers who completed residential and commercial solar energy installations. The program led to the installation of nearly 7,500 residential energy systems, 380 commercial energy systems, and more than 100MW of solar capacity.

The new program is in part the result of a three-year effort by Olympia Community Solar, a small non-profit, to pass policy that recognizes the growing need for equity in the energy economy. The organization’s first community solar installation in Washington was the Hummingbird Project a 117kW rooftop project located at the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia, WA. In February 2021, Olympia was granted $341,732 by the Washington State Department of Commerce to install a 126 kW solar system at an affordable housing complex in Olympia. Generation from the solar project will offset residents’ electric bills.

“The benefits of solar energy should be accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live or their income,” said Mason Rolph, president of Olympia. “This legislation is a small step in Washington’s progress toward a clean, affordable, and just clean energy transition. Projects resulting from the fund will not only reduce pollution, they will also reduce poverty.”

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