State Legislation Would Boost Incentives for Solar Owners

Proposed legislation in Olympia could increase the incentives available for solar installations in Washington state if approved by lawmakers during this year’s special session.

The Solar Jobs Bill (House Bill 1048/Senate Bill 5499) would bring an end to the outdated Renewable Energy System Cost Recovery Program on June 30, 2017, and would replace it with a new program designed to increase incentive caps for utilities and offer new incentives for homeowners, businesses or government entities who own solar installations or participate in community solar projects.

Under the proposed program, utilities would be able to claim a minimum annual credit of $100,000 up to a half a percent of the utility’s total power sales. This credit would be made available for utility customers to apply toward qualifying solar systems under the new program.

The new cost recovery program for solar owners allows for incentive payments starting at 16 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), increasing another $0.08/kWh for using solar panels manufactured in the state of Washington for a maximum incentive rate of $0.24/kWh. For community solar installations — for people whose rooftops aren’t right for solar or who don’t own their homes — the rate increases to $1.08/kWh.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, HB 1048 has been designated “necessary to implement the budget,” which means it will be considered as part of the budget approval process. A companion bill in the state Senate, SB 5499, similarly seeks to re-establish healthy solar incentives.

Numerous organizations, from environmental groups and faith communities to utilities and labor unions, are supporting the so-called Solar Jobs Bill with a sign-on petition led by the Solar Installers of Washington. The group is offering information and suggestions on contacting legislators at SolarStrongWA.org.

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