Hydropower is clearly renewable energy

Yet, an initiative passed in 2006 does not acknowledge that reality. Lawmakers fixed the initiative this week but did not address the hydropower snub.


The law created in 2006 by voter approval of Initiative 937 remains flawed by the reality it fails to acknowledge.

I-937 requires utilities with at least 25,000 customers to build toward obtaining 15 percent of their power by 2020 from "renewable energy sources" -- specifically wind, solar, geothermal and certain woody biomass.

But the initiative did not include hydropower as a renewable energy source even though power generated by running water through turbines -- over and over again -- is clearly from a renewable source.

It was not included purely for political reasons. Since hydropower is relatively inexpensive, backers of I-937 wanted to force utilities to invest in other renewable energy technologies.

In addition, it's become chic in some environmental circles to condemn hydropower and the dams that allow it to be produced as bad for the environment because dams are often blamed for the decline in salmon runs. Given that, there was no way the authors of I-937 were going to include it as an acceptable renewable energy source to meet the mandates of the law.

Hydropower is extremely clean and should be promoted and protected.

The Legislature has had ample opportunity to fix this flaw but continues to cower to environmental extremists.

This week Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law legislation that broadens the definition of renewable energy. The measure makes electricity produced from older biomass facilities, such as pulp mills, eligible for the state's renewable energy mandate. Supporters say it will benefit rural communities and a struggling timber industry.

The changes mean "mills that have been in operation for decades and provide hundreds of jobs would have faced an uphill climb to remain open," Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, the bill's primary sponsor. The proposal was approved by the House and Senate with bipartisan support.

We have no qualms with that change, but it is ridiculous lawmakers didn't finally acknowledge hydropower is a renewable energy and fix the obvious flaw in I-937.


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