As you know, SIW has been hard at work with fellow stakeholders trying to pass a bill that would extend the success of our local solar industry. Now that the legislative session is officially under way, we wanted to update you on our progress, as well as address some concerns about a recent petition circulated by TASC.

First a legislative update: As of this email, Rep. Jeff Morris has introduced three bills that we’re following closely: HB 1096, HB 1097, and HB 1098. These bills center around net metering (1096), the production incentive program (1097), and regulation/consumer protection of leasing companies (1098). At this point, we are supporting the bills, but with some concerns about many of the details contained within.

Rep. Jake Fey will also be introducing similar legislation modeled after the WSU stakeholder process, which was directed by Governor Inslee in his Executive Order on climate change. SIW was a full participant in this process, and will be supporting his bill with some specific concerns about the rate structure and potential changes to net metering.

Finally, SIW has been working on its own bill draft, however we will not be introducing it formally unless progress stalls out on the other bills.

In general, conversations with stakeholders have been very positive, and for the most part our voices as installers are being heard in Olympia. We continue to emphasize the need for intelligent rate design, and have provided input on what we believe is the ideal rate structure for achieving the greatest amount of solar and economic development in the most cost-effective way. With additional hard work and cooperation, we believe we can pass a bill that accomplishes these goals and creates a win-win for all involved.

Unfortunately, one of the stakeholders is unhappy with the current state of affairs and yesterday issued a petition  asking people to oppose the Morris bills. You may have seen this message from The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), which is comprised of leasing companies like SolarCity and SunRun.

SIW is disappointed, to say the least, in TASC’s decision to begin blocking these bills so early in the process. SIW also disagrees that the bills would “destroy a thriving rooftop solar industry in Washington”, as they suggest. We are asking that you please not sign their petition, given the misleading and incomplete information that they provided, and ask that you share with others who might otherwise be deceived in to opposing what could become strong legislation for a local solar industry.

As currently drafted, the Morris and Fey bills would require regulatory oversight by the UTC for leasing companies, something TASC adamantly opposes. Additionally, the bills would allow utilities to propose different rates for net metering rather than crediting kWh’s as currently required. SIW shares similar concerns about this potential net metering change as TASC does, and we continue to advocate for the net metering law to be preserved as-is.

More than anything else, TASC does not want any precedents set in Washington that might affect their business model in other parts of the country, and it sees these regulatory requirements and changes to net metering law as serious threats outside of the state. That’s why it opposes these bills. However, there are no TASC companies currently operating in Washington State, and the “thriving rooftop solar industry” they refer to are members of SIW, not TASC.

Given all we know about the current bills, SIW remains in support of them with some concerns that we believe can be hashed out in order to truly keep our industry thriving. We’ll see how things go as the session moves along.