On the scene: charting a coal-free future

coal forum

During an energy forum yesterday, renewable energy leaders spent the majority of the breakfast explaining the nuances of a landmark law, Senate Bill 1547B — which transitions Oregon away from coal energy.

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Michael O’Brien, Renewable Northwest senior policy analyst, and Varner Seaman, Portland General Electric legislative affairs manager, talked about the transition and what it means for Oregon’s energy supply.  But the duo, speaking at an Northwest Environmental Business Council forum, spent most of the time explaining the complexities of the law itself. 

That said, here are a few takeaways:

Utility agencies have until the end of the year to develop rules and put out requests for proposals; the goal is to build as many green energy projects as possible before the renewable tax credit is phased out in 2018. However, at this stage it appears there is no clear strategy for developing new projects.

SB 1547 created a solar community program, which would create opportunities for residential and some commercial customers to own off-site solar projects, and receive an energy credit on their bills from PGE or Pacific Power. But Seaman said legislators are concerned not enough people will utilize the program.

Electric cars are an opportunity for utility providers to offset carbon pollution. Likely managed by a third party, energy producers could purchase credits generated by electric cars charging at stations. But at this point there are only 2,000 EV cars in Oregon that qualify — and no real way to track in which energy territory they reside.

In the midst of uncertainty, Seaman said at least one thing is clear. “You need to stop burning coal and invest in renewables.”