Clean Power

Published on February 3rd, 2016 | by Glenn Meyers


Two Oregon Utilities Support Proposed 50% Renewable Energy Standard By 2040

February 3rd, 2016 by  

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.

Oregon coastline shutterstock_279461171House 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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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

  • Jason hm

    The only Coal plant in the Region in Centralia Washington was already scheduled to be decommissioned in 2025. The Northwest exports much more renewable Hydro power to California than it’s scattered NG peaker plants produce. Also the NW is already essentially 100% renewable so I dunno what this pledge is supposed to functionally mean other than to make for some PR fodder. We could certainly build many more windmills or solar arrays and export even more excess power to California but it would be far more efficient just to put more solar capacity directly in Cali rather than transmitting from over a thousand miles away.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Remember that sunshine and wind often occur at different times of day. And it can be cloudy in the SW while the Sun is shining in the NW. Spreading the clean energy net wide can cut down on the need for storage and dispatchable generation.

  • Pat Campbell

    Seems like a distractive ploy in taking a credit for making what is a good business decision – switching over to natural gas – that is already occurring. I would have more trust if one of these companies, PacifiCorp, could cooperate with Arlington, OR in providing electricity for a reasonable rate to their DCQC. Why strong arm a small community that is trying to use EV charging for much needed economic development?

  • Freddy D

    Very easy target to hit by 2040. In fact California approved 50% renewable by 2030, with support of at least one major utility. Oregons geography makes it slightly more difficult to hit with lack of sun, but wind is strong and, interestingly, the only HVDC long- haul transmission in the western US I believe goes straight from the sunny SoCal deserts right to PGEs one and only coal plant. Built to haul Pacific Northwest hydropower to LA, will this system switch directions twice per day in the future and allow that hydro to be mega solar storage?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Oregon has good sunshine if you get away from the foggy coast.

      The Pacific Intertie which runs from Oregon to SoCal is one of two HVDC lines west of the Rockies. The other is the Intermountain Intertie running from Utah to SoCal. Plans are in the works to tie both together at the north ends and run a spur up to Wyoming to tap into that excellent wind resource.

      This loop would then form the backbone of a Western grid which could ship sizeable amounts of power around the region.

      • Freddy D

        Thanks for the update. The local solar resource plus local wind plus tie into Mohave desert and into Wyoming – Makes the 2040 date look pretty unimpressive then to say the least.

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