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Washington RPS dies but bill promoters remain optimistic

The Washington legislature was turned against a proposed energy portfolio standard by many of the state's utilities and rural conservatives, causing the legislation to die a slow death in committee. But the bill's promoters, a group of heavy hitters that includes the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG), Renewables Northwest, the Northwest Energy Coalition and Northwest SEED, say they will be back again next year. Standards set in the bill for renewable energy development were 5% of retail sales by 2010, 10% by 2015 and 15% by 2023. The plan was unusual in that it also required utilities to reduce energy use by 0.75% a year through 2010 and by 0.85% thereafter. "Washington needs to diversify its generating resources in light of volatile natural gas markets and a potential drought," says Robert Tregulman of WashPIRG. Hydro supplies more than half the region's energy and a drought in 2001 caused high market prices. Although the RPS legislation had wide support among citizens, Tregulman says that next year supporters will have to convince rural conservatives that renewable resources are good for the rural economy.

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