Oregon Senate panel clears bill to revamp state’s clean energy mandate

Source: Special to E&E • Posted: Friday, February 28, 2014

A bill revamping Oregon’s renewable energy mandates — and protecting them from a potentially devastating ballot measure — passed unanimously through the state Senate’s Business and Transportation Committee on Tuesday despite criticism from independent utilities and other opponents.Oregon’s renewable energy mandates require large utilities to draw 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025 with a lower percentage required for smaller utilities. But the mandates came under fire recently from smaller utilities worried they would get forced out, lacking the funds to build the renewable power sources necessary to satisfy the mandate.With new data centers in particular causing a spike in energy demand, Hermiston, Ore.-based Umatilla Electric Cooperative launched a ballot measure that would have qualified existing hydropower projects — 40 percent of the state’s existing power supply — as a renewable source, essentially making the mandates worthless.

Rep. Greg Smith (R) and Gov. John Kitzhaber’s (D) energy policy adviser, Margie Hoffman, responded with a compromise bill that would allow smaller utilities to buy discounted renewable energy certificates in order to meet the initial mandates. If the bill passes, regulators will also study the possibility of setting up a special green tariff to allow large utilities to sell customized green energy portfolios to specific customers.

Umatilla Electric said it would withdraw the ballot measure if the bill passes. But independent utilities are still concerned the specialized green energy portfolios could create monopolies (Ted Sickinger, PortlandOregonian, Feb. 26)