State renewable energy standards like Oregon’s RPS are reducing how much energy we get from carbon-based sources like coal while increasing the amount of energy we get from clean renewables like wind and solar. We are making great progress but we’ll need action from lawmakers and energy producers in order meet the challenge of climate change and transition off of fossil fuels.
Where we were
Just under 12 years ago, 42% of Oregon’s energy came from coal sources.
Where we are (as of 2012)
Coal fired electricity generation is down 15%, though it remains a dangerous part of our energy mix. Slashing our fossil fuel dependence requires a multi-prong policy approach.
RPS – Graduated Phase In and Safeguards Against Rate Hikes
Change doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why Oregon’s RPS was designed with a long phase in period, tiered goals based on the size of the utility company and price controls for all customers.
Combined, the three largest utilities in Oregon – PGE, PacificCorp and Eugene Water and Electric – sell 72% of the electricity in Oregon. By 2025, each of those utility providers must deliver 25% of their electricity from new renewable resources. There are benchmark goals leading up to 2025. The great news is that all utilities are already meeting or exceeding their obligations under the law with minimal impact on rates.
Oregon’s renewable energy law protects consumer’s pocketbooks from rate hikes. The law was specifically written so that complying with renewable energy goals would not negatively impact ratepayers. This is done through consumer protections including a cost cap for utilities. To date, the impact of complying with the RPS in Oregon on rates has been less than 1%, according to the Public Utility Commission.
We’re making great strides toward the 2025 goals and utilities are actively planning for the future.
Small and Midsize Utilities
Oregon’s 37 small and midsize utility companies deliver nearly 26% of the electricity sold in the state. These utility companies have a lower compliance standard. By 2025, 10% of the electricity sold by midsize utilities and just 5% of electricity sold by small utilities must be generated by renewable resources. The lower standard takes into account the fact that smaller utilities may not be adding new demand as fast as the larger utilities, thereby limiting the need to build new projects.
By using a tiered compliance structure the Oregon RPS will help gradually introduce new technology to meet growing demand. The result? It’s working, and even the smallest utilities are meeting their RPS goals.
2014 Changes to Oregon’s RPS
We have successfully preserved the integrity of Oregon’s RPS through a collaborative stakeholder process convened by Governor John Kitzhaber. In order to address the concerns of small electric cooperatives in the state, like the Umatilla Electric Coop, they are being given an extension on the amount of time they have to comply with the RPS and greater flexibility in how they do so through the purchases of renewable energy credits. Meanwhile, the Oregon Public Utility Commission will work with larger utilities to potentially provide more renewable energy options in the state. This has been accomplished through a legislative amendment to the existing RPS law under House Bill 4126.
The RPS is having a positive impact on Oregon: more clean technology, more green jobs, safer water, and cleaner air.