House Bill 1048 - An Assessment

After spending two days in Olympia’s Capital building, I am encouraged at the prospect of a new solar bill.

Itek Energy has been working diligently for several years with law makers, utilities, and with our partners, Solar Installers of Washington (SIW), to craft a new solar bill that will be beneficial to all stakeholders. Many stars need to align this year for House Bill 1048 to become law and support the growing solar job market in Washington State. The good news is that the work is paying off.

In Olympia

Despite the fact that we were in Olympia during the first two days the House and the Senate were voting on the floor, law makers where very generous with their time. We were able to speak to over two dozen members, each taking the time to leave the floor of the House or the Senate, and come out of the chambers to discuss HB 1048 with us. I was encouraged by the amount of supportive statements we received from both Democrats and Republicans.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g58653-Olympia_Washington-Vacations.htmlPhoto source: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g58653-Olympia_Washington-Vacations.html 

The prime sponsor of the bill, Representative Jeff Morris (D), and Ranking Minority member Representative Norma Smith (R), passed HB 1048 out of committee with a strong bipartisan vote of 14-2 the day after we left Olympia. 

Washington Leads the Way

Washington is a relatively small solar state when it comes to total megawatts installed, but we lead the way in many areas. For example, Representative Smith has crafted a PV recycling program as part of HB 1048 that would make Washington State a leader in after-functional-life solar recycling. For the last few years, Representative Smith has led collaboration among installers, manufacturers, Washington State Department of Ecology, and other stakeholders to craft visionary legislation on PV recycling.

Washington is also unique in how stakeholders with varying interests that are traditionally at odds with each other are willing to come together and discuss upcoming technology impacts of distributed generation. Private utilities, Public Utility Districts (PUDs), installers, manufacturers, senior energy advisors for the State, and technology companies—as well as non-profit and environmental groups—all convene to outline the pros and cons and look at the future.  In Washington, these stakeholders have been meeting over the past several years. Despite our reputation of being a cloudy, unlikely solar region, we are leading the way in working through the real challenges and opportunities that come with wide-spread solar deployment. 

HB 1048 Status Today

HB 1048 is now in House Finance Committee, Chaired by Representative Kristine Lytton (D). This is a critical point, where the bill’s fiscal merits will be tested. There will be some tweaks to the fiscal impact of the bill, but given its job creation and economic development power, I am optimistic it will fare well. Last year, SIW sponsored a white paper, An Assessment of Incentives for Solar Power in Washington State, prepared by the Center for Economic and Business Research at Western Washington University. The paper analyzed the current solar incentive, concluding, for each dollar spent on the current incentive program $6.82 dollars in payroll were generated, and $15.84 of purchases were created in Washington State.

HB 1048 at its heart is a jobs bill. It is even more lean then the current solar program, but promises to deliver as much economic growth in Washington through manufacturing, engineering, design and installation.

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Karl Unterschuetz

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