Local Government: Energy Audits

Local Government : Energy Audits : Additional information

In state law (RCW 19.285), the initiative is referred to as The Energy Independence Act. It has two key requirements:

  • Utilities must develop and meet energy conservation targets.
  • Utilities must develop and meet renewable energy targets.

The Act requires qualifying electric utilities to pursue all available conservation that is cost-effective, reliable, and feasible. Each qualifying utility is required to adopt a two-year target and subsequently meet that target.  When you, as a citizen, participate in a utility conservation program to replace your old light bulbs or windows with more energy efficient options, you experience a reduction in energy consumption. The utility tracks the estimated reduction and counts the energy savings towards its target. We audit the utility's records that support the savings.

Each electric utility is also required to establish annual renewable energy targets. The Act lists the percentages utilities are to use when calculating the targets.  The targets represent purchases of renewable energy. The purchases can be for electricity that is delivered to a utility's cusomters, or it can be for "certificates" that represent electricity generated from a renewable source but delivered to a different utility's customers. In certain circumstances, the Act provides utilities with two alternative ways to calculate targets that allow utilities to purchase less renewable energy than they would have otherwise needed to purchase. 

Examples of eligible renewable resources are power from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas and tidal.  Power from existing hydroelectric dams cannot be counted unless the utility makes an improvement to the dam.  If the improved dam generates more power from the same amount of water, then the utility can count the new power associated with the improvement. The Act refers to this as "incremental hydro."   Utilities track their renewable energy purchases and we audit the records that support the purchases.

A utility is considered out of compliance with the Act if it does not meet either of its targets. The Attorney General's Office is responsible for enforcing compliance and utilities that fail to comply are required to pay penalties.

Which utilities are audited by the State Auditor's Office?

Washington utilities that sell electricity to 25,000 or more retail customers must comply with the Act. The Act applies to investor-owned utilities, cooperatives and consumer-owned utilities.

The State Auditor's Office is responsible for audits of qualifying consumer-owned (public) utilities. From November 2006 through December 2011, there were 12 such utilities. ​

    • Benton County Public Utility District
    • Chelan Public Utility District
    • Clallam Public Utility District
    • Clark Public Utility District
    • Cowlitz Public Utility District
    • Grant Public Utility District
    • Grays Harbor Public Utility District
    • Lewis Public Utility District
    • Mason No. 3 Public Utility District
    • Seattle City Light
    • Snohomish Public Utility District
    • Tacoma Public Utilities

There are also three qualifying investor-owned utilities that are regulated for compliance by the Utilities and Transportation Commission.  Another two qualifying utilities are cooperatives.  The Act states that cooperatives must hire an independent auditor to verify their compliance with the Act.

What are the target periods?

The first conservation target covers calendar years 2010 and 2011.

The first renewable energy target covers calendar year 2012.  The target must be at least 3 percent of a utility's annual retail electricity sales (load).

    • Beginning January 1, 2016, the percentage requirement will increase to 9 percent of a utility's load.
    • Beginning January 1, 2020, it will increase to 15 percent of a utility's load.
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