I’ve spent eight years in the Oregon Legislature. For two of those years, I had the honor to serve as co-speaker of the Oregon House. But, as I serve out my last term in Salem, I’ve concluded the Legislature is either unprepared or unwilling to address an issue that is hurting ordinary Oregonians with the arrival of every electric bill and that the initiative process is the citizens’ only recourse.
In 2007, the Legislature created the state renewable portfolio standard. It forced Oregon utilities to meet 25 percent of their demand with “renewables” by 2025, but not just any renewables. It excluded almost all the state’s vast – and renewable – hydroelectric power as a qualifying energy source under the RPS. This has forced utilities and their ratepayers to invest in high-priced, heavily subsidized wind and solar power when Oregon already has a local, sustainable and renewable energy source of its own: hydro.
I believed the Legislature was wrong in 2007, and our utilities’ constant requests for rate increases to pay for the costs of meeting the renewable portfolio standard have only reaffirmed this view. I’ve submitted legislation to define all hydro as a qualifying renewable under the RPS, but the issue hasn’t received so much as a hearing.
I’m now happy to report that Oregonians for Renewable Power wants to change this. This coalition of consumer and producer groups is now gathering signatures on a proposed 2014 initiative to recognize all hydroelectric power as a renewable energy source under Oregon’s RPS. For more information, go to www.hydropetition.com.
The coalition thinks local and sustainable hydropower is one of Oregon’s natural advantages and should figure prominently in the state’s energy plans as well as the state’s efforts to recruit businesses and jobs from outside Oregon.
RPS-related expenditures have already increased utility rates across the state. Take Pacific Power, for example. “Customers of Pacific Power will see their electric rates spike 14.5 percent in January. … ,” The Oregonian reported in December 2010. “The biggest factor driving the increases: renewable power. … Oregon’s public policy choices during the past few years are coming home to roost in rates, a trend that will continue and likely be exacerbated in coming years.”
The same kinds of increases are occurring for customers of PGE. Earlier this year, The Oregonian reported on proposed rate hikes of 9 and 11 percent for residential and small business customers. “PGE says it needs the new resources to replace expiring hydropower contracts, comply with state renewable energy mandates, and develop an adequate buffer to meet peak demand and blend intermittent resources like wind and solar,” The Oregonian wrote in early June about the Portland utility’s resource purchases.
In its latest report to the state, PacifiCorp itself reported that “beginning in 2020, generation from eligible existing and planned renewable resources is needed to meet the annual RPS requirements.”
Have Oregon’s hydro-unfriendly RPS and its RPS-related tax credits done anything to grow “green” jobs across Oregon? According to Oregon Department of Energy and the Legislative Fiscal Office, Oregon taxpayers provided $198 million in tax credits for RPS-certified renewable energy projects in Oregon and created about 187 permanent jobs. That’s about $1.1 million per permanent full-time job and our utilities still have to pay two times more for wind power and four to five times more for solar power.
It’s time to do all we can to keep Oregon’s power rates low and promote sustainable, renewable energy sources, without resorting to public subsidies and tax giveaways. The Oregon Legislature won’t take action. It’s time Oregon voters do so themselves. Please sign the petition.
Republican Bruce Hanna represents Roseburg in the Oregon House of Representatives.