Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law one of the nation’s toughest renewable energy standards Wednesday, requiring large utilities to generate 25 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable resources such as wind, sunlight and biomass by 2025.
Supporters said the measure will promote economic growth in Oregon’s rural areas and make it a leader in the emerging clean energy, low-carbon marketplace.
“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,” Kulongoski said. “We are protecting our quality of life, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, stimulating our economy – and protecting ratepayers with more stable and predictable utility rates.”
The measure requires large electrical utilities to draw 5 percent of their power from renewable resources – other than existing hydroelectric dams – by 2011. The renewable share increases by increments to 25 percent by 2025.
Oregon’s mandates are among the most aggressive in the nation.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia require electric utilities to draw a portion of their energy from renewable sources, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Minnesota and New Hampshire have passed similar renewable requirements, and California has a standard of 20 percent by 2010.
Washington, Arizona, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Colorado and Maryland have all set or increased their standards in the past few years.
Investors and business groups say the standards will kick-start efforts to develop new technologies and accelerate demand for renewable products like solar panels and windmills.
Oregon’s rural economy is also expected to get an economic boost from the bill. Farmers in the eastern part of the state are already seeing increased revenue from wind generation on farmland.
Opponents of the measure argued it could expose consumers to rate increases as utilities are forced to invest in renewable energy which, in most cases, is still more expensive than traditional sources such as fossil fuels and coal.
“What does that mean for ratepayers?” said Rep. Chuck Burley, a Bend Republican. “We never got that question answered.”
Renewable energy has also been criticized because it comes intermittently; solar panels generate power only when the sun is shining and windmills need at least a breeze to create a current.
Oregon is intent on drawing energy from the ocean – a more consistent source but still underdeveloped technology – and has some of the best coastal sites in the world for generating tidal power.
The Bonneville Power Administration announced Wednesday it awarded $2 million in contracts to projects such as an Oregon State University program studying wave energy and the Electrical Power Research Institute, a Palo Alto, Calif., nonprofit organization developing technologies for use with tidal power.
Environmentalists said the Oregon bill demonstrated states were playing a leading role in the effort to curb global warming and applying pressure on the federal government to enact similar legislation at a national level.
“States like Oregon have raised the bar for strong renewable energy policy, and it’s time for Congress to take these benefits nationwide,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Eds: The bill is SB838.
By Aaron Clark
The Associated Press
7 June 2007
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