By Roy L Hales
Oregon passed a 50% renewable portfolio standard that involves the total phase out of coal fired electricity by 2035. Half of the state’s electricity is to come from renewable sources by 2040. The Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 1547-B (38-20) on Tuesday and Governor Kate Brown signed it into law today.
Sierra Club & Pacific Power On The Same Letterhead
“Knowing how important it is to Oregonians to act on climate change, a wide range of stakeholders came to the table around Oregonians’ investments in coal and renewable energy. Working together, they found a path to best equip our state with the energy resource mix of the future,” said Governor Kate Brown in a press release.
Oregon has already reduced it’s greenhouse gas emissions close to 30%, as the result of a Renewable Standards Portfolio adopted in 2007.1 This new legislation is expected to result in another 25-45% cut in the state’s emissions.2
“The Clean Electricity and Coal Transition plan shows that we can come together to advance real climate solutions as we move away from coal and toward more clean energy,” said Andy Maggi, Oregon Sierra Club Chapter Director.
“It’s not very often that you see the Sierra Club and Pacific Power on the same letterhead,” quipped Ry Schwark of Pacific Power.3
He added, “The truth is, Pacific Power has been moving away from coal for nearly a decade. Our existing plans, even before the EPA issued their final rule on the clean power plan, was that we were going to close or convert another 8 units of coal by 2030, reducing our overall coal generation by 40%.”
How Do We get There?
“The circumstance that brought us all to the table, initially, was our filing a ballot initiative through the Renew Oregon coalition (last fall). You would think that coming together under those circumstances might not make for the best outcome, yet it became clear once we sat downtodether that we had shared goals. They could share the vision for a clean energy future: the idea of transitioning coal out of Oregon’s energy mix and beginning to double down on our commitment to renewable energy. Then the question just became, how do we get there,” said Kristen Sheeran, Oregon Director of Climate Solutions.4
“Between the environmentalists, consumer advocates, some other key stakeholders and ourselves, we worked forward a path that addressed the concerns about emissions and climate. We think this is pretty much a landmark legislation that advances Oregon’s clean power policy in a way that is both workable and affordable,” added Schwark.
Is the Grid going to be as reliable?
“Absolutely. One of the key features of this piece of legislation, which the governor in fact signed today, is that the Public Utility Commission has the authority to examine reliability as well as temporarily suspend implementation should there be any reliability concerns. Our own analysis suggests that we should be able to achieve this and maintain all of the reliability that people expect, from their electrical supply” said Schwark.
A Lot More Wind & Utility Scale Solar
“The renewable portfolio is more or less agnostic, in terms of which renewables are added, but we expect to see a lot more wind and utility scale solar,” said Sheeran.
Oregon already has 3,300 MW of wind capacity and provides 12% of the state’s electricity.
“When you think of Oregon, you sometimes think of the west side where it has a reputation as bring rainy, but we have significant areas east of the Cascade Mountains that get a lot of sunshine. There are a lot of locations where we could build solar, especially in rural communities that could use the economic boost. Job creation is another selling point of this bill,” said Brad Reed of Renew Oregon.5
Significance Of This Bill Nationally
“I want to highlight the significance of this bill nationally. It was only just this December that we had the historic Paris Climate agreement on Climate Change and one of the things that came out from the International Community was the call to rapidly transition off fossil fuels to clean energy. Here we are, just a couple of months later and Oregon is one of the first states out of the gate nationally, and globally, making good on that commitment,” said Sheeran.
She added, “Just last week the federal delegation from Oregon, (representatives Suzanne Bonamici & Earl Blumenauer; senators Jeff Merkley & Ron Wyden) issued a call, nationally, for a 50% renewable by the year 2030. (The were) building on the Oregon model. This shows that when you act regionally you can provide a workable model for how this can work on a national scale.”
- Angus Duncan, Chair, Analysis: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions Resulting from the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan, Oregon Global Warming Commission ↩
- Flink Energy, Estimated Rate Impacts, Coal Transition Plan Proposal, January 2016, p 12 ↩
- Roy L Hales interview with Ry Schwark of Pacific Power ↩
- Roy L Hales interview with Kristen Sheeran, Oregon Director of Climate Solutions. ↩
- Roy L. Hales interview with Brad Reed of Renew Oregon. ↩