According to Utility DIVE, Oregon’s two biggest investor-owned electric utilities are supporting legislation which will require them to meet a 50% renewable portfolio standard — double the current goal. If passed, the legislation will also phase out coal power generation and imports in the state’s energy portfolio.
House Bill 4030 would require utilities PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric (PGE) to eliminate coal imports by 2035 and meet 50% of consumer demand with renewable energy by 2040. The measure is viewed as a compromise between utilities and environmental advocates threatening to push for a more stringent renewables package in a ballot initiative.
In response, the investor-owned utilities are backing the compromise bill over another competing measure announced last month that aimed to set hard caps on emissions and a market-like structure for allowances.
In the end, Oregon’s two utilities have picked which carbon regulation bill they are backing, throwing support behind House Bill 4036, which The Oregonian reports would eliminate imports of coal power, significantly boost renewable energy, and generate tradable credits to offset anticipated costs.
“It’s not clear if those assurances will be enough to win the support of Oregon’s three public utility commissioners or of lawmakers. They have expressed significant concerns over the potential cost of the proposed legislation, as well as the wisdom of rushing through such a complex change to the state’s energy policies in a short legislative session,” wrote The Oregonian’s Tim Sickinger
In early January, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric reached a compromise with environmental advocates, with the companies agreeing to support HB 4036 if the greens dropped their push for a ballot initiative on the subject. The bill, the utilities say, gives them more time to phase out their coal-fired generation.
PGE provided this conclusion to the Oregon PUC:
“While HB 4036 requires Oregon utilities to remove coal from customer resource mix, it does not require out-of-state coal plants to close. However, the increased renewable targets alone achieve meaningful CO2 reductions: On a WECC-wide basis, HB 4036’s RPS additions are forecasted to reduce CO2 emissions over 30 million metric tons between 2025 and 2040. By 2040, WECC-wide CO2 emissions will be reduced by 4 million metric tons annually. This reduction is greater than PGE’s share of annual CO2 emissions at Boardman and Colstrip combined.”
This week, the utilities took to the state legislature to testify to lawmakers that the bill can deliver significant cost savings over the ballot proposal. PacifiCorp believes its plan will save $600 million by 2030; PGE stated its own plan could save between $220-$360 million over the next 25 years.
Pacific Power’s analysis of legislation that would advance Oregon’s clean energy goals finds that House Bill 4036 would result in cost savings of up to $600 million through 2030 versus the cost of the proposed ballot measures. Relative to current Oregon policy, HB 4036 results in an average annual cost increase of less than 1 percent between now and 2030.
According to Stefan Bird, president and CEO of Pacific Power, HB 4036 “meaningfully moves Oregon towards a cleaner energy future in a way that is both doable and affordable, and does so in a far better way for customers than ballot measure alternatives.”
Organizations backing this with the two utilities include The Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Sierra Club.
This call for increasing renewable energy generation, while diminishing coal power, represents a significant advance in the ongoing battle of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Image: Sunrise of Oregon coastline via Shutterstock
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