Washington State Wins with Solar Jobs Passage. Jobs & Clean Energy Leadership Alive and Well in Washington State.
There was a lot of chaos happening when it came to passing the Washington state budget– and it was down to the wire –but at the end of the day Washington state legislators showed incredible leadership by passing the Solar Jobs bill which was needed to ensure that Washington’s solar industry would not only survive but thrive.
This win gives renewed opportunity to the 161 solar-related business that employ nearly 4,000 folks. It also sets in motion a myriad of far-reaching impacts including: some 3,000 new jobs likely to come aboard in the near term, along with the promise of billions of dollars to flow into local and state economies; lessening the barrier for more commercial businesses, low-income and general residences to adopt solar; reducing the administrative burden for utilities; and create a much bigger platform to reduce Washington state’s carbon pollution.
It’s no wonder that across the state there’s a lot of celebrating going on.
Businesses including credit unions and banks, electrical workers, entrepreneurs and others are reveling in the future job, business and growth opportunities. Major utilities are embracing an approach that reduces their administrative burden. Organizations including Audubon and Environment Washington are happy that this policy allows our state to reduce climate pollution and the health effects caused by it.
WBCA is very pleased by the bill’s passage - because this policy supports our twin focuses – business and climate. The 250 Washington businesses that support our climate declaration know that climate impacts will have terrible business impacts on our state and that a clean energy economy must be our way forward. We decided that we would support Washington state’s solar industry through education. To that end, we developed a number of education pieces including: a letter of support about Washington state’s solar industry, several short videos about why the solar industry matters; an infographic and other content. We were pleased that some of our members reached out to legislators, as well.
It is gratifying that the legislature listened to a broad spectrum of constituents and also recognized the bottom line - at a time when family wage jobs are becoming harder to come by solar jobs matter. The average solar worker makes $50,000 and these jobs are found both East and West of the mountains – from Seattle to Vancouver and Yakima to Richmond. This industry is also spurring new investments in innovation, leading to serious export opportunities.
Legislators also recognized, like many other states that have embraced the solar industry, that a new policy provides certainty to industry that will bring huge amplifier benefits to the state. Solar offers an investment that pays off for every buyer while supporting local economics; residential and commercial customers save money ($75,000 over the lifetime for a medium-sized residential system) that can used on other local purchases that drive new sales tax revenue for city and county governments across the state. A Western Washington University study found that every $1 in solar in WA yields $16-$20 in local economic activity. A whopping $86.2 million (in the form of federal tax credits) are brought into the state.
Legislators were also clear that the solar industry offers a pre-emptive strategy against building new expensive energy projects; utilities are not under pressure to add, build, and source more expensive energy generation plants.
There’s more – by embracing a new solar policy, the legislature is also reducing barriers for Washington state buyers to embrace electric vehicles; Volvo’s recent announcement to go all electric or hybrid within two years reinforces that electric vehicles are the future and bodes well for our state, given that nearly half our overall carbon pollution footprint is because of transportation. As the state transitions to electric vehicles, we could actually keep $2 billion a year in our area by 2035, according to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a utility industry group, through home-grown solar generation rather than buying gasoline purchased from elsewhere.
Finally, legislators are helping reduce carbon pollution that creates additional environmental and health problems. Existing solar projects have already helped our state avoid carbon pollution, according to a Western Washington University study. The new policy will help avoid air and water pollution from coal and natural gas that contribute to diseases like cancer, heart attacks, neurological damage, and breathing problems like asthma.
In a nutshell the new solar jobs policy will:
Make no mistake, this solar jobs bill passage is what real jobs and climate leadership looks like.
While Washington state has been in the national spotlight for its strength on environmental and carbon pollution leadership, after the Trump Administration pulled out of Paris Accord, passing legislation like the Solar Jobs bill makes ideas real. This legislation will reduce carbon pollution, keep existing jobs and create new jobs and seed incredible new opportunities. We applaud the legislature for turning a clean jobs bill idea into reality - it is exactly what Washington state needs both economically and as it continues to model to the nation and the world, how jobs and climate must go hand-in-hand.
To learn more, visit SolarStrongWA.org or a recent summary in the Seattle Times.
Lisa McCrummen is a strategic communications consultant and on the WBCA leadership team.