- Avista Utilities last week became the first utility to file a clean energy implementation plan with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, outlining its progress toward meeting goals established by the state's Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA).
- The plan details the actions the utility intends to take from 2022 through 2025, including adopting energy efficiency targets to reduce customer load by roughly 2% and using demand response measures to lower peak demand during periods of extreme heat or cold by 30 MW.
- "Avista in many ways I think is a step ahead of some of the other utilities, because they own and purchase a lot of clean energy resources already,” said Lauren McCloy, policy director with the NW Energy Coalition. "So the challenge for them is really going to be figuring out [how they] integrate and optimize the clean energy resources with customer-side solutions — with more energy efficiency, more demand response and managed load, and distributed generation and energy storage.”
CETA, which Washington lawmakers passed in 2019, requires the state’s electric supply to be greenhouse gas neutral by the end of the decade and 100% renewable or zero-carbon by 2045.
The near-term path for utilities in Washington to meet CETA goals is pretty straightforward, McCloy said — retire coal plants and replace the power with clean, renewable resources, of which there is already a large pipeline of projects.
"To meet the 2030 standard, I think we are going to need to see a lot more creative thinking about how utilities are managing load, how they’re incorporating demand response in a serious way,” she said.
In addition, energy efficiency will have a key role to play, according to McCloy.
"There’s been a lot of focus in the region on resource adequacy and the need to develop capacity resources, and I think we can’t lose sight of the role of energy efficiency in that conversation,” she added.
Currently, over half of Avista’s generating potential is clean hydropower, solar, wind and biomass, according to the utility. The utility intends to serve 80% of demand in Washington with renewable energy beginning in 2022, and then increase that by 5% every two years. The utility has also proposed a Named Communities Investment Fund, which would invest up to $5 million per year in efforts that benefit historically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, per a company press release.
According to its clean energy implementation plan, Avista intends to move toward its 2030 clean energy goals by retiring Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from its portfolio, while continuing to sell excess RECs not needed for this particular compliance period — a method that the utility said would benefit customers by allowing lower rates. However, the plan notes that Avista could still require additional renewables to meet its 2030 goal, and it intends to acquire renewables beginning in 2026.
The plan is estimated to cost $41.6 million from 2022 through 2025.
"Our own clean energy goals and those set forth in CETA are ambitious, but we are committed to finding a path to get there in a way that balances reliability and affordability,” Jason Thackston, senior vice president of energy resources at Avista, said in a statement.
"This CEIP includes benchmarks created with customer input that has been invaluable to this process and helps ensure we are benefiting all our customers,” Thackston added.
The NW Energy Coalition was pleased to see the increased investment in energy efficiency and demand response in Avista’s plan, McCloy said.
"There’s not a lot of experience with demand response in the Pacific Northwest as a whole, but in particular Washington utilities don’t have a lot of experience with demand response — so it’s good to see at least some demand response in the [clean energy implementation plan,” she added.
However, she pushed back on the utility’s plan to base its compliance strategy on RECs, as this doesn’t provide a guarantee that customers are actually getting electricity from clean resources.
"CETA was passed with the expectation that utilities will provide customers with clean electricity, and delivering clean electricity to customers is different than claiming the RECs from those resources," she said.