New Utility Incentives for Solar Energy

The Energy Trust of Oregon, is adding natural gas and solar energy to its portfolio of energy efficiency programs and incentives for Oregon customers of Pacific Power, Portland General Electric and NW Natural. The goals of the new programs are to provide more convenient ways for residential customers and business owners to save money and energy. NW Natural residential customers became eligible for added incentives and expanded programs on July 1, 2003. Solar electric and hot water programs started in May.

Portland, Oregon – July 22, 2003 [] “It only makes sense to look at the complete resource picture for each customer,” said Margie Harris, Executive Director of the Energy Trust. “By working with the Energy Trust, the utilities are making possible for the first time a one-stop source for energy-saving programs that save money and make homes and businesses more efficient and comfortable.” Among the measures, the utility is offering financial incentives to help make solar energy affordable for homeowners, businesses. Although cost had previously been a barrier to installing solar systems, the combination of Energy Trust incentives and Oregon state energy tax credits cuts the system cost by as much as 40 percent, said the Trust. Quality assurance measures also aims to ensure long-lasting, high-quality installations. The Energy Trust expects to achieve a 50 percent increase in the number of solar electric systems in Oregon within a year. “Solar energy is one of the most abundant and yet least tapped renewable resources in Oregon,” Harris said. “Despite popular belief, Oregon has excellent solar resources. In much of the state, the annual solar resource is 20-30 percent higher than the national average.” The Energy Trust offers up to US$7,000 for homeowners and up to US$20,000 for businesses for approved systems. Once installed, solar electric systems can save 15 percent or more on a monthly power bill. Through a state law allowing “net-metering,” solar energy generated but not consumed at the system site is passed back to the local utility and used to supplement the local power supply. The value of the unused power is then credited back to the owner, causing the gas or electric meter to actually run backward. A homeowner can save about US$150 per year by replacing an electric hot water heater with a solar system, said the Trust. Savings for replacing gas water heaters are somewhat less. For an average residential system, the Energy Trust incentive is about US$750. The state tax credit for a similar system averages an additional US$1,500. Oregon customers of the three utilities are eligible for this program, including new and existing homes, office and community buildings, farms and municipal facilities. Cash incentives are now available for insulation, duct sealing and thermal windows in homes with gas or electric heat. Incentives for gas customers are actually higher than those previously offered. Funding comes from a small public purpose charge on monthly gas bills that reflects the amount NW Natural has historically spent on energy efficiency programs, plus a small additional amount for Energy Trust enhanced services and incentives. Since March 2002, energy conservation programs through the Energy Trust have saved 15.2 average megawatts of electricity. Renewable resource projects approved to date will produce an additional 14.7 average megawatts. The Energy Trust has assembled a qualified group of Oregon contractors and service providers to implement a wide range of residential, commercial and industrial energy efficiency programs in local areas. The Energy Trust started rolling out programs in 2003 and now offers separate programs for existing single family, multifamily and manufactured homes (“Home Energy Savings”), existing and new commercial buildings of all types (“Building Efficiency” and “New Building Efficiency”), and manufacturing sites, including agriculture (“Process Efficiency”). In June, the Energy Trust signed its first wind deal to bring 41 MW of clean wind power online by the end of 2003. The Eurus Combine Hills project, located just outside of Milton-Freewater, Oregon, is made possible by a US$3.8 million payment from the Energy Trust. This figure represents the above-market costs of the wind power. PacifiCorp will purchase the power under that company’s first direct, long-term power purchase contract from an Oregon project.
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