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New "Energy Transition Plan" Proposed for Oregon

In lieu of a ballot measure to end the use of coal power in Oregon, major utilities offered to negotiate a transition plan and timeline. (columbia114/morguefile)
In lieu of a ballot measure to end the use of coal power in Oregon, major utilities offered to negotiate a transition plan and timeline. (columbia114/morguefile)
January 7, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - A new approach and new timeline for state energy policy awaits the Oregon Legislature for consideration.

Utilities, clean-energy groups and consumer advocates have just unveiled a plan to ensure the state will be coal-free by 2030, and that the state's two largest power companies will focus on using more renewable energy and energy efficiency – making renewables half of their portfolios by 2050.

Bob Jenks, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board of Oregon, says the plan keeps a four-percent cost cap on any new power generated from renewables, and outlines an orderly transition to cleaner power.

"To me, that's a much better process, where you've got a planning environment and we can sit down and say, 'OK, we know this transition's coming and we even know when it's coming. Let's go implement it and make that transition happen in the least-cost, least-risk way possible,'" he says.

The plan was negotiated between the groups with Pacific Power and Portland General Electric – utilities that together, supply about 70 percent of the power in Oregon.

The next step is to get it into bill form so it can get sponsors and be submitted to the Legislature. Andy Maggi, director of the Sierra Club in Oregon, predicts fairly smooth sailing for the proposal.

"When we're starting from a place of that sort of respect and that sort of communication from groups that always don't see eye to eye, I believe legislators are going to respond positively to that," Maggi says.

The push for a "Clean Energy, Clean Air" ballot measure in Oregon has not been abandoned. But its backers say it will be on hold while the Legislature looks at the transition plan.

Nik Blosser, chief petitioner on the Clean Energy, Clean Air ballot initiatives with the Renew Oregon campaign, thinks the coal transition plan has economic as well as clean-power benefits for the state.

"This is a good rural jobs program, in some respects," says Blosser. "Big things can be done when people come together and sit down at the table, and talk about it."

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR