Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed a bill that broadens the definition of renewable energy.
The bill makes energy produced from older biomass facilities, such as pulp mills, eligible under the state’s clean energy mandate. Supporters say it will benefit rural communities and a struggling timber industry.
Under the change, Avista’s biomass facility in Kettle Falls will qualify as a source of renewable energy.
The wood-burning plant opened in 1983 and can produce up to 50 megawatts of electricity, or enough energy to meet the needs of nearly 38,000 households.
Since voters approved Initiative 937 in 2006, there have been numerous attempts to change it.
I-937 requires the state’s largest utilities to ramp up to getting 15 percent of power through wind, solar and certain woody biomass by 2020.
Under Senate Bill 5575, biomass energy produced onsite by pulp mills will count toward I-937 starting in 2016. The byproduct of the pulping or wood manufacturing process and yard and food waste will also count.