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Ore. Utility Company Suspends Permit Plans for Natural-Gas Plants

Oregon has committed to getting all its energy needs from renewable power sources by 2050. (Melanie Connor/GettyImages)
Oregon has committed to getting all its energy needs from renewable power sources by 2050. (Melanie Connor/GettyImages)
May 16, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – Utility company Portland General Electric (PGE) has suspended its efforts to get permits for two natural-gas plants, in part because of its customers' desire for renewable energy.

PGE's coal-fired power plant in Boardman, Ore., is scheduled to shut down in 2020 and, while the company is committing to renewable energy, it also needs an alternative when the coal plant closes.

However, PGE spokesman Steve Corson says the technology isn't currently available to rely completely on renewable energy. He says the company is currently weighing its options.

"This is a dialogue, and we want to listen to our customers, we want to reflect what our customers want us to do," Corson explains. "But we also have that sort of bottom-line imperative that we have to provide affordable, reliable power to our customers, and so that can be a delicate balancing act."

The company now is looking at buying energy from existing power plants or potentially buying other plants. Oregon has committed to being powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2050.

Dan Serres, conservation director for Columbia Riverkeeper, which opposes building the gas plants, says there may be another reason the utility company suspended its search for permits. Comments last week from the Oregon Public Utility Commission expressed skepticism at PGE's resource plan.

"They're essentially unconvinced that PGE needs to make this big, expensive commitment to new fracked-gas power at this time," he said.

While the suspension of these permits is a victory for conservation groups in the region, Serres says there is still potential for these plants to come back.

"They're suspending these two permit applications; they're not withdrawing them," he adds. "So from our perspective and from the perspective of all of our partners who've been working pushing PGE away from this fracked-gas plan, we need to make sure that these two facilities don't come back."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR