Consumers who choose to purchase green power from their electric utilities could get some nuclear power in the mix under a bill sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick.
It was one of several bills sponsored by Brown to pass the Senate by Wednesday, the cutoff day for non-budget bills to pass out of their house of origin.
Brown also had a hydroelectric generation bill, other nuclear-related bills and economic bills pass by the cutoff.
Senate Bill 5091, to add nuclear-generated power to the clean-energy mix, passed by a vote of 29-20 Tuesday. The bill still must pass the House, which has a Democratic majority.
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State law since 2002 has required electric utilities to offer customers a voluntary option to buy green power, defined as electricity generated from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other selected sources.
“In 2013, nuclear energy produced 19 percent of our nation’s electricity and prevented 589 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, which is equal to the CO2 emitted by 113 million passenger cars,” Brown said in a statement.
As the state shuts down the lone coal-fired plant in Washington and rejects other power produced by coal, nuclear power has the potential to become the hero of the green power program, Brown said.
Intermittent power sources such as wind and solar have to be backed up with baseload power that can ensure the steady supply required by the electric grid.
“Nuclear energy can provide that clean, baseload power we need to make the use of other renewables possible,” Brown said.
The bill was amended before passage to require billing statements in the green power program to show how much of the power is provided by nuclear energy. Brown welcomed the change.
“Nuclear energy accounts for 63 percent of carbon-free electricity in the U.S., and people need to know that,” she said.
Bills sponsored by Brown to educate students about nuclear energy and to position the state to take advantage of economic development and jobs from small modular nuclear reactors also passed the Senate.
She also sponsored a memorandum approved by the Senate that asks the U.S. Congress to develop a permanent national repository for high-level radioactive waste and used commercial and weapons-program nuclear fuel.
Senate Bill 5115, which would require the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to study the siting of small modular reactors in the state, had not passed the Senate Wednesday. It still could go forward as a bill necessary for the state budget.
The hydropower bill, Senate Bill 5094, would allow additional electricity produced because of efficiency improvements and marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration to count toward the power that utilities must purchase under the Energy Independence Act created by Initiative 937.
The bill passed the Senate 29-20 this month. It requires utilities, including the Benton Public Utility District, to purchase at least 9 percent of their power by next year from eligible renewable resources such as wind and solar. Benton PUD already is required to buy 3 percent of its power from eligible renewable resources.
BPA was not considered a qualifying utility under the initiative, but some other utilities that own dams can count increased electricity produced as a result of energy efficiency as an eligible renewable resource under the Energy Independence Act. Most hydropower does not qualify to be counted toward utilities’ totals.
Senate Bill 5915, which passed by a 49-0 vote Wednesday, is a fiscal reform bill that would take a broader look at the economic impact of large-scale revenue bills, Brown said. If passed, it would require agencies affected by a revenue proposal to show how people would shift economic activity as a result.
“This information would allow legislators and the public to have a more accurate idea of the net impact on our state economy of major revenue proposals,” she said.
Bills involving corrections, child welfare and mental-health issues would be required to estimate how much other state and local government programs would have to spend.
Another agency could also be created to conduct an impartial fiscal analysis for the Legislature.