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At the end of last week Gov. Jay Inslee made a splash by announcing he’d push for eliminating gasoline-powered vehicles by 2030 if elected president.

It is important to note that Inslee is a slightly obscure candidate (the northwest corner does not get all that much notice on the national stage) within a huge field of Democratic candidates vying for president. Friday’s statement may have garnered him 10 seconds or so on the national news, which would rate as a victory for his campaign.

What is far more relevant for this state and for Kittitas County is what is being done on the state level to either diminish the fossil fuel portion of the energy portfolio or emphasis renewable energy.

The state Legislature approved a bill that would eliminate fossil fuels like coal and natural gas from the state’s electricity supply by 2045 — with coal eliminated by 2025.

This is pertinent for power users in Kittitas County. According to Puget Sound Energy’s website, in 2017 38 percent of PSE’s power portfolio came from coal. The city of Ellensburg provides natural gas to its customers.

One thing about Legislative action, is it can take a while after a bill is passed and is signed by the governor to determine how the measure plays out in the real world.

While 2045 sounds safely in the distance, 2019 to 2045 is not that much time to enact changes this bill envisions.

Beyond figuring out how and where our power would arise, the side impact is in spurs the renewable energy market. As Kittitas County residents know well, the country is an attractive location for wind and solar.

It is easy to get tied up in the arguments about whether these actions should or should not be taken, but from the perspective of Kittitas County is it critical to understand what is happening and be prepared. To borrow a power term, with our relatively small population and lack of political clout, Kittitas County does not have the juice to stop state measures.

For instance, Seattle City Light’s power portfolio (as of 2017) is 91 percent hydro, 1 percent coal and 1 percent natural gas. These bold moves have less of an impact in the state’s most populace city.

This county is in better shape than it was a few years ago in terms of being prepared for renewable energy proposals. While it is legitimate to ask whether even the best planning and land use documents are of use when a developer seeks approval through the state Energy and Facilities Site Evaluation Council, there is no chance when the county’s desires are not precisely detailed and codified.

The goals spelled out in the bill seem aspirational and reliant on technological advancements. It may be that pushing toward dramatic increases focus and investment in technological advancements — namely storage — but we’re not there yet.

The bottom line is we as a county need to be aware of state energy policy and goals because we tend to be a location where these ideas are tried out.

This state may be leading the way in cutting back on fossil fuel use and, if it is, Kittitas County will be on the front lines.


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