Washington state has given the country so much—including grunge music and Jimi Hendrix. The state also is internationally recognized as a hotspot for the arts, housing such famous institutions as the Pilchuck Glass School—founded in part by internationally renowned glass sculptor, Dave Chihuly. The state also has a diverse geography—from its temperate rainforest bordering the Pacific ocean, to cloud-scraping Mt. Rainier, to vintner-perfect, semi-arid lands.
The state has long been an advocate of sustainability and energy efficiency. To help its residents and businesses take advantage of the state’s solar and other renewable energy resources—which include wind and geothermal—the state offers residents and businesses numerous incentives, including tax breaks, net metering and performance-based incentives. And the state’s utilities offer additional rebates and low-interest loans for renewable energy projects.
According to the DOE’s Energy Information Administration, “Washington has few fossil fuel resources but has tremendous renewable power potential.” Utilities in the state already produce the majority of power used in the state through hydroelectric dams. For instance, of the nearly 9 gigawatt hours of electricity produced in Washington in May 2010, nearly 7 GWh were produced by the state’s hydroelectric generators.
Despite being a northern state, roughly half of Washington gets an average of 5 kilowatt hours (kWh) of sunlight per square meter. This is mainly in the south and central region of the state, but sunlight extends up to its northern border—making the region ideal for solar power. The rest of Washington, which includes its main population center, Seattle, gets an average of 4 kWh of sunlight per square meter, which is still good for solar installations and is akin to other northern states like Maine and New York.
The state has focused much of its sustainability efforts on energy efficiency and green building practices. That’s likely because 60 percent of the state’s population resides in Seattle, which is not known for its sunny days. The state’s renewable portfolio standard, which requires 15 percent renewable energy by 2020, isn’t nearly as ambitious as California’s goal of 33 percent renewables by 2020, but the state is still ahead of many states.
Washington was the second state—following Colorado—to pass its renewable energy standard through a ballot initiative. Under the law established by the 2006 ballot measure, utilities serving more than 25,000 customers in the state must obtain at least 15 percent of their electricity from new renewable resources by 2020.
Green Building Incentive
Local Grant Program
Private Grant Program
Sales Tax Exemption
State Grant Program
Utility Grant Program
Utility Loan Program
Utility Rebate Program
Rules, Regulations & Policies
Appliance/Equipment Efficiency Standards
Building Energy Code
Energy Standards for Public Buildings
Green Power Purchasing/Aggregation
Mandatory Utility Green Power Option
Renewables Portfolio Standard
Solar Access Law/Guideline
Related Programs & Initiatives
The U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFDC) provides a wide range of information and resources to enable the use of alternative fuels and other petroleum-reduction options, such as advanced vehicles, fuel blends, idle reduction and fuel economy. The AFDC site offers a database of state and federal laws and incentives related to alternative fuels and vehicles, air quality, fuel efficiency, and other transportation-related topics.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Green Power Network provides news and information on green power markets and activities, including opportunities to buy green power. This site provides state-by-state information on green power marketing and utility green power programs. In addition, the site lists marketers of renewable energy credits (RECs), also known as green tags or renewable energy certificates, which represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy-efficient. Through this program, weatherization service providers install energy-efficiency measures in the homes of qualifying homeowners free of charge. The WAP program web site offers a state-by-state map of opportunities, projects and activities.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America site provides state-by-state information on wind projects and activities, including wind working groups, validated wind maps, anemometer loan programs, small wind guides, state-specific news, wind for schools, workshops and web casts.
|Program Type||Net Metering|
|Technologies||Photovoltaics, Solar Thermal Electric, Wind, Small Hydroelectric, and other renewables|
|Amount||Excess energy credited to customer’s next bill at retail rate|
|Required Documentation||Interconnection agreement with utility|
|Official Web Site||N/A|
Under the law, enacted in 1998, grid-tied, net-metered systems are credited at retail electric rates for any net excess generation on their next bill. The net excess generation is credited forward for a year period ending annually on April 30. At that point, any overall net excess generation provided by the system reverts back to the utility with no payment to the customer.
Utilities must offer net metering until the capacity of net-metered systems reaches 0.25 percent of their peak demand. In January 2014, the amount of net-metered power they must allow will increase to 0.5 percent of their peak demand in 1996. Of the net-metered capacity requirements, at least half is reserved for purely renewable energy systems.
The law requires utilities to provide customers with a bi-directional meter allowing for the flow of electricity from the system to be measured as well as the amount of electricity provided to the building by the utility. The customer is responsible for providing additional equipment like a current transformer enclosure, meter sockets and junction box.
Net-metered customers also are eligible to enroll in Washington’s Renewable Energy Production Incentives program. In that program, customers are paid for the electricity their system produces. But utilities may require system owners to have separate production meters for that program, and customers are required to pay for such meters and related costs. Customers also retain any renewable energy credits their system generates.
Under the law, systems must be UL certified and utilities are not allowed to require customers to purchase liability insurance or comply with other safety or performance standards. To charge customers interconnection or other fees associated with net metering, like standby or capacity fees, utilities must seek approval from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.
|Program Type||Low-interest Loan and Rebate Program|
|Amount||Rebate: $400 per kilowatt (kW), up to $1,200. Loan: Up to $10,000 at 4.9 percent interest rate|
|Required Documentation||Contact Klickitat|
|Official Web Site||www.klickpud.com/|
The Klickitat rebate and loan programs typify the renewable energy incentive programs offered by utilities in the state. Each, however, has its own rebate and/or loan programs for which customers may sign up.
The Klickitat rebate program pays grid-tied customers installing a PV system $400 per kW of DC (direct current) power, up to a maximum of $1,200 for a 3 kW solar system. The program is part of the federal Bonneville Power Administration’s Conservation Rate Credit program.
The publicly-owned utility also offers customers qualifying for the rebate a low-interest-rate loan program for installing PV systems. Under the loan program, grid-tied customers installing a PV system may qualify for a loan of up to $10,000. The interest rate on the loans is fixed at 4.9 percent, and loans must be repaid over a seven-year period.
Klickitat’s loan program is available to existing buildings with electric heat. Applying homeowners must have at least 12 months of good payment history with Klickitat. The loans are secured with a lien on the property and homeowners repay the loan through their electric bill.
|Program Type||Performance-based Incentive|
|Amount||Between $0.12 and $0.54 per kW hour (kWh), capped at $5,000 annually|
|Required Documentation||Washington Department of Revenue (DOR) renewable energy system certification form, DOR annual incentive payment application|
|Official Web Site||http://web.me.com/green_island_trust/Northwest_Solar_Center/Incentive_chart.html|
Washington offers a performance-based incentive to residents and businesses installing renewable energy. The program is operated by the Dept. of Revenue, and payments are made to residents by their utility. The rate at which the incentive is paid is dependent on the type of technology used to produce power. The base-rate of the incentive is $0.15 per kWh. Utilities qualify for tax breaks equal to the amount they pay for the incentives. Payments to installation owners are limited to $5,000 a year.
Participants of the program also are eligible for community solar projects. Incentive rates for such projects are higher, starting at $0.30 per kWh produced, and members of such projects are independently eligible for incentives, based on their ownership share of the project. Community solar projects are limited to 75 kWs in size.
For people installing Washington-produced PV modules, the base incentive is multiplied by a factor of 2.4, creating an incentive of $0.36 per kWh produced. If the system also is equipped with a Washington-made inverter, the base rate is multiplied by a factor of 1.2.
The incentives are being offered by the state until June 30, 2020. Under state law, as of September 2010, utilities in the state won’t be able to claim any tax credits for incentive payments made after June 30, 2021.
To apply for the program, state residents must apply with the DOR to certify their system and for payments for their renewable energy installation.