Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is asking lawmakers to allocate $10 million in funding for Washington State University’s Institute for Northwest Energy Futures.
The effort to launch the institute began in the spring of 2022. The new support would help pay for a lease-to-own building, an institute director, five scientists and five graduate students. The institute is located on WSU’s Tri-Cities campus in Eastern Washington. Some of the dollars are also earmarked for faculty and graduate students at WSU’s main Pullman campus.
The nascent institute could focus on a variety of technologies, many of which are already being researched by WSU scientists, said Sandra Haynes, WSU Tri-Cities chancellor, at an event on Monday announcing the request.
That includes biofuels, next-generation nuclear reactors, power transmission on the electrical grid, energy storage and batteries, and green hydrogen fuels.
“The sky’s the limit at WSU and Tri-Cities,” Inslee said. “Let’s go build a future right here in the Northwest.”
Inslee will be releasing his complete 2023-’25 budget proposal Wednesday in Olympia, but gave a sneak peak earlier this week. Climate change and clean energy have long been focal points for Inslee, who made a bid for president in the last election running on a climate platform.
State lawmakers begin convening in January and will pass a two-year budget during a legislative session that’s scheduled to run until April.
Washington state is home to dozens of climate technology startups. Companies in fusion energy, nuclear power and batteries have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in the past couple of years.
Supporters of the WSU institute called out the Tri-Cities’ strong research and workforce resources, including the area’s high number of engineers.
That’s thanks in large part to the presence of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Hanford was founded to aid the World War II effort and is undergoing a lengthy and costly cleanup of radioactive waste. The state’s only commercial nuclear power reactor is also in the Tri-Cities, and X-Energy is pursuing plans to build a next-generation reactor in the area.
The institute has support from the region’s Republican lawmakers, including incoming Sen. Matt Boehnke and retiring Sen. Sharon Brown. Boehnke, who also attended Monday’s announcement, emphasized the importance of the Tri-Cities’ shift from cleanup to clean energy.
“What are we going to be in the next 10, 20, 30 years?” Boehnke said. “It’s the clean energy hub.”