Oregon Legislature Passes Bill to Eliminate Coal from State Power Supply

The Oregon Senate passed a bill on March 2 that will require electric companies in the state to eliminate coal-fired resources from their electrical supplies by January 1, 2030.

The bill—which passed in the senate by a 17–12 vote—had already been passed by the Oregon House of Representatives (38–20). It now heads to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature. All indications are that she will sign it into law.

In addition to eliminating coal, the bill also revises Oregon’s renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) and creates a community solar program. The state created its RPS in 2007, requiring Oregon’s three largest utilities—Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, and the Eugene Water and Electric Board—to obtain 5% of their electricity supply from renewables by 2011, 20% by 2020, and 25% by 2025. For other consumer-owned electric utilities in the state, the RPS varied between 5% and 10% of energy supply by 2025, depending on the size of the utility.

The new RPS would require the big three to supply 50% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2040. It would not change the requirements for smaller, consumer-owned utilities.

“Climate change is the most pressing issue facing mankind,” said Sen. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield). “This bill helps to move Oregon away from fossil fuel energy production and toward a healthier future with clean energy. This strikes a good balance between phasing in clean energy sources for all of Oregon’s electricity supply while taking into account the needs of utilities and rate-payers.”

The bill also makes changes to the criteria for generating renewable energy certificates, ensures facility decommissioning costs are recovered, establishes a program for community renewable projects, and incents development of electric vehicle infrastructure throughout the state.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) would have broad rulemaking and regulatory authority under the bill. It would be able to cap annual rate increases at 4%. The bill also establishes an exemption mechanism if compliance with the law’s requirements would compromise the integrity of an electric company’s electrical system or its ability to comply with reliability standards enforced by the North American Electric Reliability Corp.

The PUC would be required to report back to the Oregon Legislature between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021, on the effect the bill has on rates, greenhouse gas emissions, and electrical system reliability and operations, among other things.

“This bill strikes a good compromise to help the state reach meaningful clean energy goals and also provides the regulatory authority to the Public Utility Commission to protect ratepayers’ interests,” said Sen. Chris Edwards (D-Eugene).

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)