The legislative session has begun in both Northwest states this month. In Washington State, the political make-up of the Senate has changed with a pre-session decision by two elected Democratic Senators’ decision to caucus with Republicans, shifting the balance of power in that body to the Republican party. The newly elected Governor, Democrat Jay Inslee will attempt to govern with a now divided legislature. Education and the budget deficit are likely to be the dominant issues in 2013. However, Governor Inslee campaigned on a platform of support for clean energy and underscored that commitment in his inaugural address. Look for the now traditional legislative skirmish over changes to I-937 language in this session. Already, the House Environment Committee has held a work session on the issue (NEEC Board member Phil Welker participated on the panel for NEEC). NEEC continues to champion the idea that the statute can be improved by offering affected utilities greater flexibility in meeting their clean energy requirements with a greater mixture of energy efficiency resources.
NEEC is also communicating to legislators on both sides of the aisle the dramatic success of the now three year capital commitment the state has made to K-12 schools and other public facilities for energy efficiency projects. Washington State has over this period committed $215M to energy efficiency projects, well leveraged with local funding, to improve the building infrastructure of school districts and local government buildings across the state. Conservatively, this effort has created or retained 5,000 jobs. Much more public facility work needs to be done and NEEC is hopeful for another round of funding from the 2013 Legislature.
The Oregon Legislature has had its opening gavel, but the process in that state works differently. Immediately upon convening, the Legislature goes into a 2 week hiatus as bills are formed and the legislative work is organized. Both House and Senate (both now in control by Democrats) will get started in earnest in early February. The Oregon Legislature may have an active slate of energy efficiency ideas before it in 2013. As details emerge in support of Governor John Kitzhaber’s 10 Year Energy Plan, specific legislative ideas may get traction ranging from the development of a state building innovation lab, to a re-examination of cost effectiveness approaches, to ideas on how the business model for electric and natural gas utilities could be changed to better support energy efficiency.
Members can follow active bills in both states that relate to energy efficiency by clicking on the attached PDF document.