Oregon’s 25 percent renewables standard includes new hydro

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law a renewables portfolio standard June 6 that requires the state’s largest utilities to obtain 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. Eligible renewables include new hydropower, efficiency upgrades to existing hydropower facilities, and wave energy.

Other eligible renewables include wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass projects. To be counted, electricity must be from a new renewable energy source that entered operation on, or after, Jan. 1, 1995. That means most of the state’s existing hydropower capacity will not be counted.

Oregon’s new law includes interim targets of 5 percent by 2011, 15 percent by 2015, and 20 percent by 2020. Utilities are not required to comply with the standard if doing so would result in rate increases of more than 4 percent.

Two investor-owned utilities — Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. unit of Mid-American Holdings Co. — and one publicly owned utility, Eugene Water and Electric Board, are affected. All three utilities have existing hydro assets in their portfolios.

Utilities that contribute less than 3 percent of the total state energy load are exempt from meeting the 25 percent target. Instead, they must meet either a 5 percent or 10 percent target, depending on their size.

“This bill is the most significant environmental legislation we can enact in more than 30 years that will also stimulate billions of dollars in investment creating hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs in both urban and rural Oregon,” Kulongoski said. “Today we are … protecting our quality of life, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, stimulating our economy and protecting ratepayers with more stable and predictable utility rates.”

Oregon is one of about two dozen states to have established a renewables portfolio standard. (HNN 5/4/07) It is the last of the three Pacific Coast states, which include Washington and California, to establish an RPS.

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