The first bill of the upcoming legislative session has been introduced. Following his successful effort with Senate Bill 5588 in 2019 to authorize public utility districts to produce and sell “renewable hydrogen,” Sen. Brad Hawkins has prefiled a bill for the 2021 legislative session to establish an eight-year statewide pilot project for the reduction of sales tax on purchases of fuel-cell electric vehicles. The bill so far has gained commitments of bipartisan support from nearly 20 co-sponsors.
“The people of North Central Washington have been leaders in clean energy for decades and new state efforts to promote renewable hydrogen and zero-emissions vehicles will help us continue our innovative work,” said Hawkins.
Hydrogen can be created from a process that separates the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water. The Douglas County PUD in Hawkins’ district plans to utilize its surplus hydropower to do just that, creating renewable hydrogen from excess renewable hydropower and possibly also building hydrogen fueling stations.
Hawkins’ proposal, Senate Bill 5000, prefiled today and eligible for legislative consideration in January, aims to extend a similar exemption in vehicle sales tax that purchasers of traditional electric vehicles receive. With the first hydrogen fueling stations in Washington state expected to be operational by 2022, the bill would allow a total of 650 vehicles to receive a 50 percent sales tax exemption in fiscal years 2023 through 2029.
Even though hydrogen vehicles are newer to the market and slightly more expensive due to having not been in mass production nationwide, they have shown tremendous promise given how quickly they refuel and the limited infrastructure required to get the fuel to the station. Hawkins mentions that his bill would help establish important parity between fuel-cell electric vehicles and traditional plug-in electrics.
“In our efforts to promote carbon-free vehicles, our state policies should be ‘technologically neutral’ so that we can give ourselves varied opportunities to reduce emissions and not unintentionally bias ourselves in the process,” Hawkins said. “Similar to diesel and gas, maybe there will always be multiple fuel sources for next-generation cars or maybe someday hydrogen vehicles will be the preferred choice.”
The lead co-sponsor of the bill is 40th District Sen. Liz Lovelett (D-Anacortes). Supporters of the bill include Douglas County PUD, Renewable Hydrogen Alliance, Western States Hydrogen Alliance, and Toyota.
What the bill’s supporters are saying:
“We are thankful for Senator Hawkins’ leadership for renewable hydrogen. His support has created an opportunity for us to increase efficiencies at our Wells Hydroelectric Project and increase value for our customers.”
Molly Simpson, Douglas County PUD Commission President
“The Renewable Hydrogen Alliance is proud to support the expansion of clean vehicle incentives to fuel cell electric cars just as Washington begins creating clean hydrogen from the state’s ample supply of renewable electricity.”
Ken Dragoon, Executive Director of the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance
“Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be critical to the future of a decarbonized transportation sector. This bill is a meaningful step to ensuring the state incentivizes a portfolio approach to electrifying Washington’s transportation sector. WSHA could not be more pleased to support Senator Hawkins in this effort.”
Roxana Bekemohammadi, Executive Director of the Western States Hydrogen Alliance
“Senator Hawkins’ pilot incentive program is an important first step to help accelerate the adoption of hydrogen, fuel cell and electrification accessibility in Washington state. Paving the way for emissions-free technologies will further generate awareness, interest and acceptance in communities seeking cleaner options.”
Doug Murtha, Group Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Planning at Toyota Motor North America
“As we work to reduce transportation emissions in Washington state, incentivizing clean energy through an increased use of hydrogen could play a significant role toward accomplishing our climate goals. I look forward to working across the aisle with Senator Hawkins on this policy, and to continue protecting our state’s incredible natural environment.”
Sen. Liz Lovelett, 40th District, D-Anacortes, Lead Co-Sponsor