State-level community solar programs are one way to level the playing field by bringing clean energy to all. Community solar enables rate payers to subscribe to a solar project and receive credits on their electric bills. The rate payers don’t need to pay in advance, as they would if they put solar on their own home. They don’t even have to own a home—as community solar serves all.
Washington state was home to the country’s first community solar project; however, it has some catching up to do as it now ranks 31st in deployment. To that end, Washington Representative David Hackney (D-King County) and State Senator John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) pre-filed both HB 2253 and SB 6113, respectively. These bills intend to expand equitable access to the benefits of locally sited solar power to all Washington rate payers.
The legislation, called the Fair Access to Community Solar Act, intends to advance community solar in the state as well as to help the state meet its energy goals. In addition, the bills, which were just introduced in Washington’s House and Senate, are expected to create jobs and help the economy.
“As soon as constituents and my colleagues learn how community solar works, they realize the immense benefits it can bring,” said Representative Hackney. “Our state is long overdue for this type of legislation to implement a competitive community solar program in order to bring energy justice and economic growth for all Washingtonians.”
The Fair Access to Community Solar Act establishes a community solar bill crediting program to ensure subscribers earn a proportionate credit on their monthly utility bill.
“I am proud to work with Representative Hackney, fellow legislators, and our Washingtonian business community to introduce this community solar legislation,” said State Senator Lovick. “By prioritizing a program structure that benefits as many Washingtonians as possible, The Fair Access to Community Solar bill will help ensure our state can lead on community solar adoption.”
In addition, the policy supports solar developers, as it allows them to access state and federal incentives.
This is not the first community solar legislation in the state. In April 2022, Washington passed a solar incentive program 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 was, 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. Passage of the bill created a new $100 million incentive program, which began last year, that will provide funding for low-income households and low-income service providers’ installing solar.
“A new legislative session brings hope for community solar in Washington,” said Mason Rolph, president of Olympia Community Solar. “This legislation will help reduce many Washingtonians’ stubbornly high energy costs and ensure that the grid of the future is affordable, equitable, and reliable.”
CCSA members have worked to ensure the bill reflects the needs and realities of all rate payers in Washington state including those in disadvantaged communities.
“The national momentum for community solar continues to build. Getting a comprehensive program bill across the finish line here in Washington will allow for the state to reap all the benefits numerous states across the country already see from community solar,” said Derek Chernow, CCSA.
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