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Washington approves renewables initiative minus existing hydro

Washington voters narrowly approved a renewable energy initiative Nov. 7 that excludes existing hydropower.

At least one utility argued the initiative, which passed 52 to 48 percent, would artificially increase costs for electricity consumers.

The Washington secretary of state's office said 836,397 people (51.9 percent) voted in favor of Initiative 937 and 775,311 (48.1 percent) voted against it. Election results are not considered final or official until certified, which might not occur before Dec. 7. By state law, Dec. 7 is the last day for the secretary to certify general election returns.

Prior to the election, Avista Utilities urged Washington residents to reject the initiative, which would require utilities to acquire 15 percent of their energy supply from new renewable sources, but fails to qualify existing hydropower. (HNN 10/16/06)

Avista operates eight hydroelectric plants totaling 979 MW and supplies more than half of its load from hydropower. However, because existing hydro does not qualify under the initiative, Avista said it would be forced to acquire resources without regard to its integrated resource plan. The company did not issue a statement commenting on the outcome of the election.

The initiative does define renewables to include incremental electricity from efficiency improvements at regional utility-owned hydro projects and irrigation pipes and canals. However, additional generation would be ineligible if it resulted in new water diversions or impoundments.

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