Gov. Jay Inslee signed a package of bills Tuesday to combat climate change headlined by legislation to rid Washington’s electric grid of fossil-fuel-generated power by 2045, a move that makes the state a leader in the national clean-power movement.
Other parts of the green agenda now embedded in state law create new conservation standards for energy use in large new buildings, require new efficiency standards for appliances and phase out “super pollutant” hydrofluorocarbons used as refrigerants.
The law sets a 2025 deadline for utilities to end all reliance on coal, and a 2045 deadline to end use of natural-gas-generated electricity. The new energy standards will have a major impact on investor-owned utilities. Puget Sound Energy (PSE), which serves more than 1.1 million electric customers, got nearly 60 percent of its electricity from coal and natural gas in 2017.
PSE leaders were involved in intense negotiations with legislators and environmentalists over the shape of the bill. In the final version, legislators yielded to utility concerns that an early House bill contained too harsh of a financial stick should the fossil-fuel-powered electricity not be phased out by 2045.
For PSE, the clean-power law will add new urgency to the task of ending a decades long reliance on a major coal-fired plant in Colstrip, Montana, which the utility partially owns. Two of the plant’s four units will close by July 2022. PSE had forecast that it would stop drawing power from the other two units by the early 2030s, and hinted in planning documents that it could happen sooner.
The new legislation means that within six years, PSE needs to be done with delivering Colstrip power to Washington.