The Beaver State’s Challenging Environmental Future

State Economy

The population of the “Beaver State,” Oregon is approximately 4.32 million people[1]. Oregon is the 27th most populated state in the United States.

In 2021, Oregon’s economy was ranked 24th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the agriculture, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, and tourism, industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2007, Oregon established the Renewables Portfolio Standard[4], which requires public utilities to sell 25% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2025 and 50% by 2040

In 2021, Oregon passed the Clean Energy Bill[5], which requires require retail electric utilities to reduce emissions by 80% by 2030, 90% by 2035, and 100% by 2040.

In April 2022, utilities[6] used renewable energy (68.3 %) and natural gas (31.7 %) to generate electricity in the state. Hydropower is the dominant source of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Oregon.

In April 2022, the average cost of residential electricity in Oregon was 11.22 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 14.77 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Oregon include:

  • 400 MW Solar Project –Oregon solar company, Obsidian Renewables is continuing work on the Obsidian Solar Center at a site approximately 150 miles southeast of the state capital, Salem. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2024.
  • 300 MW Wind + 50 MW Solar + 30 MW Energy Storage Project – In June 2022, Portland General Electric commissioned the Wheatridge Renewable Energy project at a site approximately 175 miles east-northeast of Salem.
  • 162 MW Solar Project – Spanish utility, Iberdrola is continuing work on the Montague Solar project at a site approximately 90 miles east-northeast of Salem. The project is forecasted to be commissioned by year-end 2022.

Conclusions

Oregon has a long history of using hydropower to generate electricity. Portland General Electric’s (PGE) commissioned the T.W. Sullivan Hydroelectric Plant in 1895.

In April 2022, hydropower generated 42.4 % of Oregon’s electricity. Renewable, non-hydropower generated only 25.9 % of the state’s electricity.

Oregon has significant renewable energy resource potential, including offshore wind, onshore wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. Oregon’s total renewable energy resources could generate over 2,200% of the state’s current electricity requirements[7]

Although Oregon’s legislators have passed legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emission, the state has done little to address 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 the regional power grid 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 Time – The 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 implemented renewable energy mandates but has failed to remove the barriers for the development of these clean, green energy resources.

The Beaver State has green energy aspirations but is facing significant challenges in achieving its aspirations.

 

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book 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 been interviewed on over 100 radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy related topics.

 

[1] Oregon 2022 Population – Worldpopulationreview.com

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Oregon – World Atlas

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

[5] Associated Press – Governor Brown Signs Ambitious Clean Energy Bill by Sara Cline, July 27, 2021

[6] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Oregon State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

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

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