SALEM – An initiative that would allow utilities to count all hydroelectric power toward renewable energy requirements was approved this week for signature gathering.
Organizers need to gather 87,213 valid signatures by July 3, 2014, to place the initiative on the Nov. 2014 ballot.
The initiative seeks to alter renewable portfolio standards approved in 2007 that require large utilities obtain 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015, and 25 percent by 2025. The law prohibits large utilities from counting hydroelectric power generated by dams built before 1995 towards the standard.
Portland lobbyist Paul Cosgrove and Salem resident Tom Hammer, the initiative sponsors, want to count all hydroelectric power toward the green energy mandate. “Most people agree that hydro power is renewable because in the every day meaning of that term, it is renewable,” Cosgrove said.
Cosgrove represents the Umatilla Electric Cooperative, a small utility in Northeast Oregon. The initiative, if approved, would also help smaller utilities meet their green energy mandates, which are lower than those set for large utilities.
Critics of the initiative say the renewable portfolio standards were aimed at developing newer sources of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, to meet future demand. The standards weren’t meant to count hydroelectric power generated by dams built decades ago, said Jeff Bissonnette, organizing director for the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.
“Hydro is renewable, but we can’t pat ourselves on the back for the things we did back in the ’30s,” Bissonnette said. “That’s meeting current load. We’re trying to figure out how to meet load growth going forward.”
Initiative organizers this week registered the Affordable Renewable Energy political action committee, which hadn’t listed any financial transactions as of Thursday, according to state campaign filings.
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