Washington state will soon become the fourth state in the nation to commit to 100% renewable energy, joining Hawaii, California, and New Mexico. Pending the final vote in the Senate (it was already passed by the state’s House of Representatives), the legislation will commit Washington to generate the state’s electricity supply carbon neutral by 2030 and 100% carbon-free by 2045. According to the Sierra Club, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and at least 90 cities have also made commitments to clean energy.
“We have a suite of policies that we will embrace: a 100 percent clean grid, net-zero building codes standards, elimination of super pollutants, electrification of our transportation systems through incentives and through our infrastructure, huge increases in R&D throughout multiple technologies,” said Governor Jay Inslee, who introduced the bill. “All of those things together need to add up to be the new clean economy for midcentury.”
So how is the state intending on carrying out this plan? Washington already generates approximately three-quarters of its electricity from hydropower and will likely shift toward depending principally on the hydro industry to generate its electric needs in the future. While coal-generated electricity will definitely be gone from the table, nuclear will remain an option, though it is generally more expensive than hydropower options.
The first step, as detailed in the measure passed by the House last week, "would require utilities to eliminate coal as an energy source by the end of 2025 as the first step toward a goal to provide carbon-free electricity by 2045," according to the Associated Press.
The state is already well on its way toward doing so, as Ars Technica explains: “Last year, the state's last remaining coal plant in Centralia, Washington, scheduled the retirement of its two coal-fired turbines: the first by 2020 and the second by 2025. Washington utilities also receive coal-fired electricity from the Colstrip plant in Montana, but they are scheduled to stop paying for Colstrip electricity by 2022.”
Transportation is the sector that accounts for the highest emissions, making up 43% of the state’s total. Governor Inslee has commented that upcoming legislation will particularly target transportation in order to reduce emissions on the grand scale and help the state reach its target.