Oregon state Senator Chris Edwards, D-Eugene, and state Representative Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, have proposed a ban on electricity generated by coal-burning power plants. If the idea sounds crazy, consider that 71% of Oregon residents said they support the bill, according to a Sierra Club poll. If the proposed legislation increases utility bills, over half still support it.
The potential cost to utility customers is the main objection and it’s a natural one, but all those details have not been worked out exactly. Currently, about one-third of Oregon’s electricity comes from coal-based power plants. Two-thirds comes from hydropower and other renewable sources, so Oregon is already well along the path to 100% clean energy.
If that goal seems unattainable, it certainly isn’t. Solar power has never been more affordable and it could decrease in price again by 40% over the next two years. Wind power will most likely continue to decrease in price as well, although government support is lacking.
Solar Could Fill the Gap Mostly
Oregon only has about 81 MW of solar power installed, so there is a lot of room for it to grow to fill the gap left by phasing out coal power plants.
In fact, it has been estimated that by 2025, 20% of Oregon’s electricity could be produced by solar power, “Utilizing all available rooftop space with suitable sun exposure, Oregon could technically install 10 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems by 2025—which would generate about 20 percent of Oregon’s forecast electricity use in that year,” according to a 2012 report released by the Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center.
90% Clean Energy to 100%
Imagine if the whole state of Oregon was running on 90% clean energy. Do you think that last ten percent would be difficult to achieve? It seems more likely that getting to 90% would generate a lot of excitement and press. The last 10% might actually be the easiest.
If Oregon becomes the first state to achieve 100% clean energy, it surely would be a national news story and generate much discussion about renewable energy around the country. Oregon has been viewed as one of the greenest states for many years.
It doesn’t seem unlikely at all that it could run entirely on clean energy sources. Tourism is a significant contributor to the state’s economy; bike tourism alone is tied to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
A state running on no fossil fuels would probably be even more appealing to tourists.
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