The Clock Is Ticking On Climate Change, Which State In The Pacific Northwest Is Making Real Progress?

Efforts to address climate change are gaining momentum across the United States. However, environmental philosophies and policies vary dramatically from state to state.

The move from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) to renewable energy (wind, solar, hydropower, etc.) has contributed to a decline in greenhouse emissions[1] in the United States over the last fifteen years.

Climate, renewable energy resource potential, and population are all factors that affect a state’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Comparing individual states in the same region proves insight into which states are making real progress at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Idaho are areally large states with similar climates and renewable energy resource potential. However, each state has taken a very different approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Idaho is one of only 13 states with neither a renewable energy standard nor a goal[2]. However, Idaho’s utilities generated 71.3 % of the state’s electricity from renewable energy in November 2021[3].

Idaho has vast renewable energy resources including hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal. The development of these green energy resources contributes to state’s very low cost of electricity.

Idaho’s state capital, Boise has set the goal[4] of generating 100% of the city’s electricity from renewable energy by 2035. The city has also set the goal of being 100% carbon neutral by 2050.

In 2007, Oregon established a Renewables Portfolio Standard[5], which required public utilities to sell 25% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2025 and 50% by 2040[6]. In November 2021, Oregon’s utilities generated  63.8 % of the state’s electricity from renewable energy[7].

In 2021, Oregon passed legislation which require retail electric utilities to reduce emissions by 80% by 2030, 90% by 2035, and 100% by 2040. However, Oregon’s legislation failed to address the barriers utilities face in meeting state mandates, including:

  • Aging Power GridThe Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) is a federal government agency founded in 1937. The agency was formed to develop dams, hydroelectric projects, and the power grid in the Pacific Northwest. Today, BPA operates 75% of the power grid in Oregon. However, the BPA hasn’t made significant upgrades and investment in over 40 years.
  • Power Grid Gaps – Oregon’s power grid was developed for the hydroelectric power plants. Oregon’s undeveloped renewable resources (offshore wind, onshore wind, solar, and geothermal) aren’t located near available power grid infrastructure.
  • Protracted Cycle TimeThe cycle time to gain the permits to build a new power plant and the transmission lines to tie into the power grid in Oregon range from 6 to 20 years! Permitting for onshore wind or solar projects in Oklahoma takes 1 to 2 years and for offshore wind projects in New Jersey it takes 2 to 3 years.
  • Opposition To HydropowerOregon utility, PacifiCorp has acquiesced to legislative pressure and agreed to close four dams on the Klamath River for salmon restoration, including the 169 MW Klamath Hydroelectric Project. The dams and hydroelectric project are scheduled to be removed by 2023.
  • Opposition To New DevelopmentSome environmental groups oppose the construction of any new infrastructure, even if the infrastructure will result in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These groups have initiated legal action to stop the development of proposed renewable energy projects.

Oregon has an abundance of undeveloped renewable energy potential, including onshore wind, offshore wind, solar, and  geothermal. Studies show that Oregon could generate over 2,200% of the state’s power requirements[8] just from renewable energy.

Idaho’s utilities are actively developing new renewable energy resources and are continuing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Oregon has implemented renewable energy mandates but has failed to remove the barriers for the development of these clean, green energy resources.

In 2020, United States electric utilities produced 1.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions[9]. Achieving a carbon-free power sector in the United States by 2035 will have a significant impact on the global reduction of greenhouse gases. It is time our country united behind programs to address climate change.

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has also been interviewed on over ninety radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

[1] US Environmental Protection Agency, April 2021.

[2] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, August 13, 2021

[3] US. Energy Information Administration, Idaho State Profile and Energy Estimates

[4] City of Boise Climate Action – https://www.cityofboise.org/programs/climate-action

[5] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, August 13, 2021

[6] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, January 4, 2021

[7] US. Energy Information Administration, Oregon State Profile and Energy Estimates

[8] Engineers for a Sustainable Future, “Energy In Oregon, Past, Potential, Barriers and Path Forward” by Jack Kerfoot, Feb. 2021

[9] U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Associated With Electricity Generation

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