The Kennewick City Council has joined other Tri-Cities governments in supporting legislation to pull the plug on part of the state's Energy Independence Act that requires public utilities to buy solar and wind power to supplement their energy, whether they need it or not.
The Kennewick council voted unanimously last week to support House Bill 2124 and Senate Bill 5964, which would modify the act so public utilities would have the option -- not be required -- to acquire alternative energy only when demand exceeded their supply.
The Richland and Pasco councils signed similar resolutions of support last month. Commissioners in Benton and Franklin counties also are on record supporting the legislation.
The bills were introduced late in the last session and are expected to be reintroduced in January.
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If successful, the measures would modify I-937, which was passed in 2006 to create the Energy Independence Act. That act requires the Benton PUD and other utilities with more than 25,000 customers to incorporate enough solar and wind power energy to make up 3 percent of their energy load for 2012, increasing to 9 percent in 2016 and 15 percent in 2020.
In adopting its resolution in support for the bills, Kennewick officials want utilities to have "the choice to avoid the purchase of unneeded renewable energy or credit," said City Manager Marie Mosley in a memo to the council.
"(It would not) change the intent of I-937, which is to encourage conservation and use of renewable energy resources. These bills will protect qualifying utilities from unnecessary additional costs which could result in unwanted rate increases," Mosley added.
Kennewick's resolution noted that I-937 passed statewide with 51.6 percent of the vote, and that Benton and Franklin counties' voters rejected it by more than 66 percent.
The state's energy picture also has changed since I-937 passed in 2006, with energy demands not growing because of a poor economy and successful conservation programs, the resolution stated.
Eighth District Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, said the political landscape also may have changed.
"I think of our economic times and how I hear some legislators on the west side talk about their constituents' concerns on the cost of energy. To get hydro declared as a renewable energy is a stretch, but this is a common sense thing. Utilities don't need this for their loads," Delvin said.
Additionally, Benton and Franklin PUDs have been talking with other PUDs in the state, Delvin said.
"There was a big split when the initiative originally came up, and things have changed," the senator said.