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Washington legislator wants state to count existing hydro power resources as renewable

An amendment to Washington's state constitution might gain official recognition for hydropower as a renewable energy source, HydroWorld.com has learned.

House Joint Resolution 4200 -- filed by state Rep. Larry Haler in anticipation of Washington's upcoming legislative session -- would modify an earlier policy called Initiative 937.

Initiative 937, approved by voters in 2006 with a 52% majority, requires utilities with at least 25,000 customers to purchase at least 3% of its power from eligible renewable sources. That percentage increases to 9% in 2016 and 15% in 2020.

As per the initiative, incremental electricity from efficiency improvements at regional utility-owned hydro projects, and projects located in irrigation pipes and canals are included as "renewables".

However, additional generation is ineligible if the project results in new water diversions or impoundments. Existing hydropower projects were also excluded.

Proponents of Haler's new resolution say it will allow utilities to lower energy rates because it will enable them to include existing hydroelectric resources in the state's renewable energy portfolio. Currently, utilities are being forced to invest in other renewables like wind and solar to meet the initiative's percentage, while electricity produced by existing hydro plants is being sold to other states.

To be adopted as an amendment, House Joint Resolution 4200 must first gain approval from both the state's House and Senate before being signed by Washington's governor. The question would then go to voters in November with a simple majority needed for passage.

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