Washington renewable energy and energy efficiency

The state of Washington has a variety of policies and programs to support the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency from both public and investor-owned utilities. As one of the top states for renewable energy generation, Washington has a great number of renewable energy resources, such as wind, hydro, and landfill gas1. The extensive hydroelectric-based system helps the state to maintain a low-emission and clean electricity grid. The state government has launched programs, such as requiring public building energy efficiency and supporting the use of energy savings performance contracts2, to improve energy efficiency.

A history of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Washington

There is a long history of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Washington. In 1977, Washington passed its first voluntary Building Energy Efficiency Code, which has since been updated. Starting in 1991, the Washington State Legislature required the Department of Commerce to submit biennial energy reports to advise the Governor and Legislature on state energy development.

In 1993, the State Department of Commerce released the first Energy Strategy, demonstrating the importance of transportation in energy planning. In 2000, the Washington State Legislation enacted a bill requiring utilities to offer net metering. In 2001, the first utility-scale wind project has established in the state, which is the Stateline Wind Energy Center. From then, wind energy is continuing to contribute to the state's renewable generation as the second largest resource. Later in 2006, Washington adopted its Renewable Portfolio Standard and an energy efficiency resource standard for certain utilities to encourage the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Department of Commerce updated the Energy Strategy in 2012, focusing on transportation, building efficiency, and distributed energy. The Energy Strategy updates are included in the Biennial Energy Report published by Department of Commerce every two years.

Beginning in 2013, the state legislature has invested in the Clean Energy Fund (CEF), which supports the development, demonstration, and deployment of clean energy technologies3. The funds are used in projects such as grid modernization, transportation electrification, and solar deployment. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council released the Seventh Power Plan in 2016, stating energy efficiency as a primary action in reducing the emission from electricity generation. The plan encourages research and investment in improving energy efficiency, demand response resources, and natural gas generation.

Washington's Renewable Portfolio Standard

Washington's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was passed by ballot initiative in 2006. It requires utilities to use eligible renewable resources or acquire equivalent renewable energy credits (RECs), or a combination of both, to obtain 15% of their electricity from new renewable resources by 2020 and to undertake all cost-effective energy conservation.

Important renewable energy organizations in Washington

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is the state's energy regulatory body, ensuring that investor-owned utility and transportation services are safe, available, reliable and fairly priced4. The Commission regulates several utility companies, which provide renewable energy and energy efficiency incentives and programs in the state, such as Avista Corporation, Pacific Power, Puget Sound Energy, and Cascade Natural Gas Corporation.

The Washington State Energy Office (SEO) is a branch under the State Department of Commerce. It focuses on the State's energy issues and provides information and analysis regarding energy policy. SEO also supports energy technology research to ensure the clean energy economic development and statewide energy security. The office mainly focuses on energy data analysis, energy policy development, program design and implementation, and emergency energy planning5.

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is a part of the U.S. Department of Energy. BPA is a self-funding nonprofit federal power marketing administration based in the Pacific Northwest. It gains most of its revenues from publicly-owned utilities and ensures a reasonable power price. BPA supports the development of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and new technologies that enhance the energy services. BPA provides about 27% of the electric power generated in the Northwest, which comes mostly from hydroelectric power.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is responsible for developing regional power plans for the four northwest states, including Washington. The council also sets conservation targets for Washington's electric utilities' energy efficiency.


  1. Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. “Renewable Energy.” Accessed May 21, 2019.
  2. ACEEE. “Washington | ACEEE.” accessed May 28, 2019,
  3. Washington State Department of Commerce. “Clean Energy Fund.” Accessed May 28, 2019.
  4. Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. “About the Commission.” Accessed May 21, 2019.
  5. Washington State Department of Commerce. “2017 Biennial Energy Report and State Energy Strategy Update,” 2017, 91.

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