Oregon Legislature Passes 50 Percent Renewable Portfolio Standard

The Oregon House and Senate last week passed a bill requiring PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric (PGE) to obtain from renewables 50 percent of the electricity they supply their customers by 2040. The bill also sets a timetable for eliminating coal-fired electric power in the state.

Jennifer Martin, partner at Stoel Rives in Portland, said in statement that, if signed into law, the new renewable portfolio standard (RPS) would be one of the “most aggressive” in the U.S. California and New York currently have an RPS of 50 percent by 2030, and Vermont has an RPS of 75 percent by 2032. Hawaii has an RPS of 100 percent by 2045.

PacifiCorp and PGE together supply 70 percent of Oregon’s electricity load.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) applauded passage of the bill, saying in a March 2 statement: “Climate change is already wreaking havoc on our farming, our fishing and our forests, and we need to pivot rapidly from a fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy. I’m pleased to see Oregon once again paving the way with collaborative and innovative policies to keep us at the forefront of American leadership on this pressing issue.”

The bill now goes to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.

Pacific Power, PacifiCorp’s subsidiary in Oregon, said in a statement that it was part of a coalition of organizations that supported the legislation, which received extensive public review in multiple state House and Senate hearings during January and February, as well as a special public meeting of the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

“Our customers tell us that they want us to move to a cleaner energy future while maintaining the reliability and affordability of the power that they depend upon,” Stefan Bird, president and CEO of Pacific Power, said. “We are pleased that we were able to work with a broad group of stakeholders to help craft a policy that will put Oregon on a path to meet the state’s carbon reduction goals — while ensuring it will keep the lights on, and costs to our customers low.”

According to Martin, the bill would materially alter the way Oregon treats renewable energy credits (REC). On the generation side, she said, the bill lifts the existing ban on using RECs generated by biomass and municipal solid waste facilities that became operational before 1995. In addition, the bill would redefine how the state’s utilities bank RECs — the practice of holding RECs generated in a compliance year for use in later compliance years.

“The pre-existing state RPS allowed investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to bank and carry forward RECs indefinitely,” Martin said. “[This bill] will end that practice. While consumer-owned utilities will be able to bank RECS indefinitely, the state’s IOUs will have different rules.”

Martin also said that the bill establishes a community solar program for Oregon. The program would allow residential and small commercial customers to credit electricity received from off-site solar projects to their utility bills. In contrast to other states with community solar programs, she said, the bill requires that community solar projects be located within the state, “which is another opportunity for increased solar development in Oregon.”

Lead image: Oregon State Capitol building. Credit:  Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

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Jennifer Delony, analyst for TransmissionHub, started her career as a B2B news editor in the local and long-distance telecommunications industries in the '90s. Jennifer began covering renewable energy issues at the local level in 2005 and covered U.S. and Canadian utility-scale wind energy as editor of North American Windpower magazine from 2006-2009. She also provides analysis for the oil and natural gas sectors as editor of Oilman Magazine.

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