A bill introduced by Senator Jeff Wilson for the next legislative session would bring back a popular incentive program for homeowners to install solar panels.
Senate Bill 5493 reinstates the Renewable Energy System Incentive Program that began in 2017 and provided $ 110 million to residential and commercial solar power installations. The new version of the program proposed by Wilson maintains total funding, but focuses more on encouraging homeowners to install their own solar systems.
Wilson said it encourages energy independence and stability as Washington continues to move towards renewables. He uses solar power at his Longview home to supplement his electricity bill for his home and to charge his electric vehicle.
“If you want to have more control and be part of a program that benefits the climate, the environment and your own wallet, you should encourage that,” Wilson said.
Washington State University’s energy program led the original incentive program and would remain in charge of Wilson’s renewed version. While the program can cover any renewable energy job, almost all approved energy systems have focused on solar power.
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Energy program director Todd Currier said unlike many other incentive programs, the renewable energy program does not provide its payments up front. Homeowners will need to purchase their own solar panels and then apply to the WSU Energy Program for approval of their installation. Once the panels are operational, the incentive will be paid annually based on the amount of electricity produced.
“We care a bit about the cost of your system, but what matters most to us is how much your system will produce. If you don’t take care of it, it won’t produce as much,” said Currier. .
Basing the incentives on power generation means that the incentive pay will vary depending on where they are used, as well as the exact angles and location of the panels. Currier estimates that in southwest Washington, a set of three panels could reduce a home’s average annual electricity bill by at least $ 70.
The state rebate would provide money on top of those savings on the electric bill, and installing solar panels could make homes eligible for federal tax credits or local energy incentives. renewable.
Currier’s team produced a report to the Legislature at the end of 2018, once the $ 110 million in incentives were provided, to recap the benefits of the program.
The report says the program has certified 7,461 residential energy systems, 376 commercial energy systems and created more than 100 megawatts of solar power capacity.
Within the Cowlitz County PUD coverage area, there were 87 residential projects and two large commercial projects.
“I’m not saying solar and wind are going to solve all of our energy needs, but this bill is a pro-energy choice,” Wilson said.
The original solar incentive program was introduced by Senators Doug Ericksen and Guy Palumbo in 2017. Wilson said he started working with Ericksen on the new bill before Ericksen died earlier this month.
One of the last articles on Ericksen’s official Senate website said the incentive programs had been a “smash hit” and that he had no concerns about the program being phased out. “It’s not often that we can say that a government program has worked exactly as intended,” Ericksen wrote.
The push for solar power is a rare example of an agreement between Wilson, a Republican, and Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat. One of the governor’s biggest demands in the climate and energy budget proposal released this month is $ 100 million for subsidies for solar installation and energy storage. Inslee’s proposal focused more on local governments and agencies than individual owners
“It was one of those ideas that was supported by people from different parts of the political spectrum,” Currier said.
If the Wilson Bill is passed by the legislature and passed as is, new nominations will be accepted as of July 1. Those enrolled in the first version of the program will keep their current incentives, but will not be able to apply for new projects.