Understand the Key WA Energy Policy Updates in Less Than 4 Minutes

The new Washington State energy bills have over 100 pages in new requirements. Want to know which ones matter to your utility’s energy conservation programs? Read on.

May in Olympia brought significant changes to energy policy in Washington State that affects all utilities—large and small—across the state. Lucky for you, we distill the legislative jargon down to the most important points to ensure you know what to expect.

washington state legislature, olympia

Beyond future 100% clean energy targets, you need to be prepared for more energy consumption reporting, more efficient appliance codes and standards, and increased energy assistance for low-income households.

Essentially, utilities of all sizes will have more requirements to meet, including improved program delivery for energy conservation and low-income assistance.

But who wants to read through hundreds of pages of legislative documents? Luckily, we took one for the team.

Here’s a cheat sheet of what you need to know from Washington State’s new energy bills:

Energy Efficiency Bill 1257

Why does it matter?

All Washington utilities are affected, including small utilities with fewer than 25k meters who have historically been exempt from many energy efficiency program requirements.

Who’s affected?

Large commercial and multifamily customers (over 50k square feet). There will be exemptions for buildings in “financial hardship” (the exact definition to be determined by the Department of Commerce).

What’s the deal?

The Department of Commerce will create Energy Use Intensity (EUI) benchmark standards over the next 1-2 years. Meeting these benchmarks for energy performance is required in 6-8 years, depending on the size of the building; larger buildings have to comply more quickly. There is also an early adoption incentive that utilities are required to offer.

Additionally, electric vehicle charging is required wherever new parking is built. One parking space or 10% of spaces, whichever is greater, must provide EV charging.

energy star portfolio manager screen shot
What do utilities need to do?

Now: Upload nonresidential energy consumption data to Energy Star Program Manager for at least the most recent 12 months (smaller utilities can alternatively make data compatible with ESPM available to customers).

Next 1-2 Years: Prepare program implementation for EUI benchmark standards and the required early adoption incentives. The early adoption incentive program requires a base payment of 85 cents per gross square foot of floor area to customers meeting EUI standards. The utility must pay the incentive, and can tack on an 8% administration charge; these expenses can be used for a tax credit.

Codes & Standards Update – Appliance Efficiency Bill 1444

Why does it matter?

Energy efficiency baselines will likely change to meet the new standard, so reportable energy savings will be reduced. Direct install measures will particularly be affected. The water heater requirements facilitate future demand response programs.

energy star appliances: efficienct refrigerator, washing machine, microwaveWho’s affected?

Everyone, except new manufactured/mobile construction.

What’s the deal?

It’s time for a codes and standards update on appliances. Loads of commercial equipment and the following residential equipment is getting more energy efficient: portable ACs, ventilating fans, electric storage water heaters, faucets, showerheads, general service lamps, portable electric spas, and pool pumps.

Also, a demand response interface is required on electric storage water heaters.

What do utilities need to do?

Change the baseline for claiming energy efficiency savings to match the new standards, which will likely negatively affect conservation program cost-effectiveness and potentially justify new program offerings.

Clean Energy Bill 5116

Why does it matter?

Beyond requiring 100% clean energy for all utilities by 2045, the bill requires increased energy assistance to low-income households for all utilities.

Who’s affected?man applying blown-in attic insulation

Low-income residential customers.

What’s the deal?

Utilities must provide more energy assistance to low-income households with a “higher energy burden”. Prior literature defines a household with a high energy burden as one where energy costs exceed 3-5% of gross income.

The Department of Commerce will set low-income assistance potential and targets for each service territory. Preliminary targets for 2030 are aggressive: the greater of (a) meeting 60% of the current energy assistance need or (b) increasing assistance by 15% over the amount provided in 2018. For 2050, utilities must meet 90% of the current energy assistance need.

What do utilities need to do?

Now: Get ahead of the Department of Commerce. Begin preparing local energy assistance estimates for your service territory using your own data. Understanding your local need can offer insights to the Department of Commerce before targets are finalized.

Soon: Begin offering expanded energy assistance programs. Energy assistance programs include weatherization, conservation and efficiency services, and grants and discounts intended to lower a household’s energy burden. Direct assistance will become very expensive as energy rates rise, so a comprehensive approach including energy efficiency programs would work better over the long term.

Get Prepared for the New Requirements

Now that you know the meat of the new state requirements, you’re ready to start taking the necessary steps to meet them now:

  1. Start uploading commercial consumption data to Energy Star Portfolio Manager if you don’t already, or make plans for customers to access ESPM-ready consumption data so they can upload it.
  2. Estimate the local energy assistance needs of your service territory so you can avoid surprises (and maybe join the conversation) when the Department of Commerce sets targets.
  3. Revisit your conservation program portfolio and make adjustments based on the new codes and standards, as well as upcoming low-income energy assistance targets.
  4. If you don’t offer conservation programs, now is the time to plan cost-effective ways to meet your upcoming targets. Low-income direct assistance is expensive!

As always, reach out if you have specific questions or are interested in customized data analysis or program implementation.

Photo credits: Bluedisk at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0. WA Department of Commerce Low-Income Weatherization.