(1) Any city or town engaged in the generation, sale, or distribution of energy is hereby authorized, within limits established by the Constitution of the state of Washington, to assist the owners of structures or equipment in financing the acquisition and installation of materials and equipment, for compensation or otherwise, for the conservation or more efficient use of energy in such structures or equipment pursuant to an energy conservation plan adopted by the city or town if the cost per unit of energy saved or produced by the use of such materials and equipment is less than the cost per unit of energy produced by the next least costly new energy resource which the city or town could acquire to meet future demand. Any financing authorized under this chapter shall only be used for conservation purposes in existing structures, and such financing shall not be used for any purpose which results in a conversion from one energy source to another. For the purposes of this section, "conservation purposes in existing structures" may include projects to allow a municipal electric utility's customers to generate all or a portion of their own electricity through the on-site installation of a distributed electricity generation system that uses as its fuel solar, wind, geothermal, or hydropower, or other renewable resource that is available on-site and not from a commercial source. Such projects shall not be considered "a conversion from one energy source to another" which is limited to the change or substitution of one commercial energy supplier for another commercial energy supplier. Except where otherwise authorized, such assistance shall be limited to:
(a) Providing an inspection of the structure or equipment, either directly or through one or more inspectors under contract, to determine and inform the owner of the estimated cost of purchasing and installing conservation materials and equipment for which financial assistance will be approved and the estimated life cycle savings in energy costs that are likely to result from the installation of such materials or equipment;
(b) Providing a list of businesses who sell and install such materials and equipment within or in close proximity to the service area of the city or town, each of which businesses shall have requested to be included and shall have the ability to provide the products in a workmanlike manner and to utilize such materials in accordance with the prevailing national standards;
(c) Arranging to have approved conservation materials and equipment installed by a private contractor whose bid is acceptable to the owner of the residential structure and verifying such installation; and
(d) Arranging or providing financing for the purchase and installation of approved conservation materials and equipment. Such materials and equipment shall be purchased from a private business and shall be installed by a private business or the owner.
(2) Pay back shall be in the form of incremental additions to the utility bill, billed either together with use charge or separately. Loans shall not exceed two hundred forty months in length.
Findings—Intent—2002 c 276: "The legislature finds that energy conservation can take many useful and cost-effective forms, and that the types of conservation projects available to utilities and customers evolve with time as technologies are developed and market conditions change. In some cases, electricity conservation projects are most cost-effective when they reduce the total amount of electricity consumed by an individual customer, and in other cases they can be cost-effective by reducing the amount of electricity a customer needs to purchase from an electric utility.
The legislature intends to encourage and support a broad array of cost-effective energy conservation by electric utilities and customers alike by clarifying that public utilities may assist in the financing of projects that allow customers to generate their own electricity from renewable resources that do not depend on commercial sources of fuel thereby reducing the amount of electricity a public utility needs to generate or acquire on their customers' behalf." [ 2002 c 276 § 1.
Effective date—Contingency—1979 ex.s. c 239:
"This 1979 act shall take effect on the same date as the proposed amendment to Article VIII of the state Constitution, authorizing the use of public moneys or credit to promote conservation or more efficient use of energy, is validly submitted and is approved and ratified by the voters at a general election held in November, 1979. If the proposed amendment is not so approved and ratified, this 1979 act shall be null and void in its entirety." [ 1979 ex.s. c 239 § 4.
] The referenced constitutional amendment (1979 Substitute Senate Joint Resolution No. 120) was approved by the voters on November 6, 1979. See Article VIII, section 10 of the state Constitution.