OLYMPIA — The state House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to allow PUDs to produce, distribute and sell renewable hydrogen via pipeline or shippable pressurized containers.

State Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, introduced Senate Bill 5588, which the Senate unanimously approved Feb. 15. It now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee.

"Our hydro utilities have experienced difficulties in the springtime when flows are high on the Columbia River and when wind and solar generation are significant in the Pacific Northwest," Hawkins said in a news release. "Spilling excess water over our dams can adversely impact fish, and generating additional electricity in times of oversupply can impact us economically because we are the owners of the dams."

Douglas County PUD asked Hawkins to sponsor the bill. The PUD plans to separate oxygen molecules from water, using electrolysis, to produce renewable hydrogen and sell it.

Spokeswoman Meaghan Vibbert said the plan is still in the preliminary stage and, if the governor signs the bill, the PUD would work on a pilot project.

"We appreciate Sen. Hawkins' leadership and relentless effort to get the bill moved through the Legislature," she said. "Everybody in Olympia is focused on clean energy right now, so the timing of the bill is really good. It's a creative solution to a problem hydro plant operators run into."

Hawkins represents the 12th Legislative District covering Chelan and Douglas counties and parts of Grant and Okanogan counties. He said the district is the state's top producer of clean, renewable energy with six hydroelectric facilities.

"Our PUDs have been leaders in clean energy for decades, and this bill would allow them to continue to lead with another form of clean energy," he said. "Renewable hydrogen can be used as a transportation fuel as well as for other purposes."

Hawkins has 32 cosponsors for the bipartisan bill.