Testimony of Cecile Gernez, Environment Washington ‘Go Solar’ Organizer at a hearing on HB 2346, House Technology and Economic Development Committee, 12 January 2016

Chairman Morris and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to comment today. My name is Cecile Gernez and I am an Organizer with Environment Washington. We are a state-wide, citizen funded, environmental advocacy group.

I am here today in support of HB 2346. I’d like to thank Representatives Morris and Smith for their leadership in introducing this bill.

The sun provides us with virtually unlimited pollution-free energy with no fuel costs. In Washington State, there is vast potential for solar power; we could produce 21 times as much energy as we consume each year, just from the sun. As such, solar can and should be a key part of Washington’s energy future.

In addition, solar power is a growing American success story, boosting our economy and creating jobs. In 2014, nearly 1.8 billion dollars were invested in the American solar industry. This is an industry that is creating jobs 20 times faster than the overall US economy. In Washington alone, while solar made up less than one half of one percent of our energy mix in 2014, it employed 2,400 people in the state. At the same time, solar power is growing in Washington - per capita solar power capacity grew 56% percent in Washington in 2014. But, to continue to reap these benefits, we must support its continued growth in the state.

A September 2015 Environment Washington report titled, Lighting the Way III: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2014, found that the states who ranked the highest for solar per capita were those with policies that allow increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to “go solar.” In other words, the states reaping the largest benefits from the growth of solar energy are not necessarily those with the most sunshine, but instead the states that have laid the policy groundwork to encourage solar energy adoption.

In order to reap the environmental and economic benefits of solar power, we need to pass good, pro-solar policies like HB 2346.

The state solar production incentive program has helped to reduce the cost of solar and has contributed to the expansion of solar energy in Washington. The individuals, families, businesses and communities who decide to go solar are contributing to the job growth, economic investment, and environmental sustainability that are benefitting our state. Without extending the production incentive, and raising revenue caps, prospective new solar customers will not be able to reap the benefits of solar power, our state will lose out on the economic and environmental advantages of a booming solar industry, and our much needed transition to clean energy will be further delayed.

Not only is this policy good for Washington’s energy future and good for our economy, but the public supports the expansion of solar energy. Over the past few months, we’ve talked with thousands of Washingtonians about solar power. From the tri-cities to Walla Walla, from Vancouver to Bellingham, we have collected endorsements from nearly 80 small businesses, and 20 elected officials, while gathering nearly 500 petitions from the public. Among those who have endorsed our campaign are Cindy Portman, Snohomish County Assessor; Johanna Spenser, Mayor of Lake Stevens; and Matt Larsen, mayor of Snoqualmie.

On behalf of growing numbers of Washingtonians who are signing onto our campaign, I ask you to support this bill, for the sake of our environment, our economy, and future generations.

Thank you for your time.