Oregon Utilities Outline a Do-able Plan to Reduce CO2 10% Below 1990 Levels

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To reduce emissions of greenhouse gases 10 percent below 1990 levels, Oregon’s PGE (Portland General Electric) plans to replace coal plants with 2,362 MW of wind energy and 557 MW of simple-cycle combustion turbines burning natural gas, according to a preliminary report submitted to state regulators at the PUC (Public Utility Commission) reported by Energy Prospects West.

The utility’s emissions totaled 4.20 million metric tons of CO2 in 1990, when it had a nuclear plant, that has since closed. By 2005, emissions increased to 7.72 million metric tons of CO2. To cut those emissions in half, the utility will invest in renewable power.

To pay for the new investment in building renewable energy, utility rates will likely rise 13% in 2019, and 25% in 2020, the utility calculates.

But the other utilities in the state that utilize the regions plentiful hydro can make a gentler transition, as they currently have surplus generation from clean sources in the spring and winter.

Idaho Power has negligible production, CO2 emissions, and costs, to change. But PacifiCorp, with both more generation (and more emissions) than PGE, could nevertheless achieve the goal for half the rate rise, it estimates. Currently, PacifiCorp has 1,000 MW of hydro power on the grid.

It would replace coal plants with 1,212 MW of natural gas and 1,340 MW of wind power. The wind generation needed to achieve that goal could be produced by about four or five average sized wind farms.

It can do it for half the cost to ratepayers of PGE. An average rate rise of 2% a year will build the new cleaner electricity, adding a cumulative 19% to electric bills by 2020, PacifiCorp estimates. The greatest rate rise would come in one year, with about 6% in 2015. That would add $6 to a $100 monthly electric bill that year. For most of the other years, rates would rise less than 1%.

The current 30% Federal tax credit to help investment in renewable energy passed by the current Democratic congress helps, for now.

But the extractive energy industry is very committed to investing in fighting renewable energy adoption. As a result of the disastrous Citizens United ruling (that corporations can buy elections) this election saw an unprecedented amount of shadowy funding against Democratic candidates nationwide by the fossil energy industry.

As a result, there is a new congress with a House Republican majority that literally vowed fealty to fossil fuels by taking the Koch Industries/Americans for Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge in order to get funding for elected seats. Now only four Republicans in the House of Representatives are willing to admit the existence of climate change.

For now Oregon plans a clean energy future to avert the threat of climate change, under two term Democratic Governor Kitzhaber. But this year he narrowly avoided losing to a Republican, and similarly the previously Democratically held seats in the Oregon legislature will now be split evenly with those who oppose renewables for a living.

So, it could get more difficult in the future.

Image: Michael Menefee
Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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