PUD “renewable hydrogen” bill approved by Legislature

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April 9, 2019

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We can be very proud that our 12th Legislative District is the top producer of clean, renewable energy in Washington state. Six hydroelectric facilities – Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph, Wells, Rocky Reach, Lake Chelan, and Rock Island Dam – generate abundant, emissions-free power in our district.  

PUDs in Washington soon could have the authority to produce and sell a new type of clean energy as part of a bill I introduced this year. Substitute Senate Bill 5588 would authorize PUDs to produce, distribute, and sell renewable hydrogen. Hydrogen can be created from a process that separates the oxygen molecule from water. My bill defines “renewable hydrogen” as hydrogen produced using renewable resources.

The Douglas County Public Utility District approached me early in the session to sponsor the legislation, which received a Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee hearing on February 6. Following committee approval, the full Senate voted 47-0 to support the idea. The proposal was approved by the House Environment and Energy Committee on March 21 and by the full House of Representatives on April 9 by a vote of 97 to 0. The bill now heads to the Governor for his consideration and signature. I am very excited about this bill because it helps demonstrate the legacy of innovation of our local PUDs. Our PUDs have been leaders in clean energy for decades, and this bill would allow them to continue to lead on another form of clean energy.

Wells Dam

Wells Hydroelectric Project, near Pateros, is owned and operated by Douglas PUD.

The bill provides our hydro utilities with a new way to address an ever-increasing challenge they are experiencing in the springtime, when flows are high on the Columbia River and when wind and solar generation is significant throughout the Pacific Northwest. Spilling excess water through our dams can adversely affect fish, and finding a buyer for electricity when supply is exceeding demand can be challenging, so using surplus electricity to produce hydrogen can be both environmentally and economically beneficial.

Douglas County PUD and the Washington PUD Association both supported the bill and Douglas PUD anticipates opportunities to sell hydrogen in this emerging market, which would benefit PUD customers because they are the owners of the utility. The renewable hydrogen produced could be used as a transportation fuel and for other purposes. Toyota is among numerous stakeholders interested in the bill.

Panelists testify in favor of SB 5588

Douglas County PUD General Manager Gary Ivory (left), Douglas County PUD Commissioner Molly Simpson (center) and Ken Dragoon (right) with the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance testified in favor of Senate Bill 5588 before the House Environment and Energy Committee.

Officials with Douglas PUD, Washington Public Utility Districts Association and Renewable Hydrogen Alliance testified in favor of the bill during its public hearings in the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee on February 6 and in the House Environment and Energy Committee on March 14. Thanks to all of them for making the trip to Olympia to speak in support of this legislation.  

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Renewable hydrogen can be a key contributor in our clean energy future.

There are many exciting things happening related to renewable hydrogen both here in Olympia, because of this bill, and throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The Renewable Hydrogen Alliance is a Northwest-based organization formed in 2018. Its mission is to promote using renewable electricity to produce climate-neutral hydrogen and other energy-intensive products to supplant fossil fuel consumption. The organization is hosting a Renewable Power to Clean Fuels Symposium May 20 in Portland to discuss and share many of the latest information about this emerging resource.

You can hear my interview with KPQ early this session about the renewable hydrogen bill here. KOHO also interviewed me about this bill. You can hear that interview here.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your state senator.



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District
E-mail: brad.hawkins@leg.wa.gov 

Website: senatorbradhawkins.org

107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000