Washington state was home to the first community solar project in the nation; but it is no longer the leader. In fact, it ranks 31st in the nation in community solar deployment. Despite best efforts by legislators to advance community solar in the state with passage of The Fair Access to Community Solar Act, it was recently stymied for another year due to utility opposition.
The Act was put forward by Washington Representative David Hackney (D-King County) and State Senator John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) who filed HB 2253 and SB 6113, bills intend to expand equitable access to the benefits of locally sited solar power to all Washington rate payers.
The legislation intends to advance community solar in the state as well as to help the state meet its energy goals. In addition, the bills are expected to create jobs and help the economy.
The Act establishes a community solar bill crediting program to ensure subscribers earn a proportionate credit on their monthly utility bill. If passed, it would allow community solar developers to leverage state and federal incentives to bring energy savings to Washington rate payers.
When the legislation was presented in the House Energy & Environment Committee, it was met with such hostile amendments by the utilities that it was tabled until 2025, according to Derrick Chernow, Western Regional Director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). The amendments were opposed by the broad coalition in support of the original bill, Chernow said.
“In a regrettable course of action, Washington state’s electric utilities have effectively killed The Fair Access to Community Solar Act, dealing a setback to our shared goals of advancing climate action and promoting energy equity,” said Chernow. “This disappointing move hampers the collective effort of our diverse coalition and Washingtonians striving for a sustainable energy future.”
By enabling access to community solar, this legislation would have supported state in achieving its decarbonization goals sooner, and bringing energy rates down for those who need the assistance the most. CCSA said that Washington will now fall further behind with the loss of this bill, and residents will continue to face high energy burdens.
“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.”
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