For Immediate Release
Sierra Club To State Officials: Protect Clean Energy From Pacific Power Attacks
Portland, OR - The Sierra Club yesterday moved to intervene in Pacific Power’s request before the Oregon Public Utility Commission that would stifle the expansion of clean energy in Oregon by undermining state policies that foster renewable energy growth locally. PacifiCorp, through their subsidiary Pacific Power based in Portland, has proposed dramatically shortening the length of contracts it secures to purchase clean energy like wind and solar from 15 years to only three years, which would have a chilling effect on Oregon’s burgeoning clean energy industry. Sierra Club joins other clean energy supporters in the proceeding, including Renewable Northwest, the City of Portland, Renewable Energy Coalition (REC), and the Community Renewable Energy Association (CREA).
The filing can be found here.
“Oregon families want and deserve more local clean energy like wind and solar to power our homes and communities,” said Bill Arthur, Associate Regional Campaign Director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.. “Instead of supporting more investment into clean energy that creates jobs here in Oregon, Pacific Power instead wants to pull the rug out from under this growing industry and prevent the expansion of clean energy jobs and businesses that benefit our communities here at home.”
The federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) requires utility monopolies to purchase power from qualifying renewable energy producers if the projects can offer a price that is at or below what ratepayers would otherwise pay. The cost for solar and wind projects has dropped steeply in recent years, which has encouraged a burst of new clean energy projects that are able to offer competitive pricing. Unfortunately, in an attempt to protect their own profits, utilities like PacifiCorp have sought to undermine these projects by pushing states to shorten the required contract terms, which in turn makes financing for the projects more difficult, if not impossible. At the same time, PacifiCorp is doing next to nothing beyond what’s required to invest in and develop wind and solar projects in Oregon. In fact, according to PacifiCorp’s 20-year energy plan that is currently being developed, the utility has no plans to invest in any other clean energy beyond what falls under PURPA.
PacifiCorp's latest attack on PURPA in Oregon follows a trend across the country. The utility, owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy, has sought similar changes before state bodies in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, and earlier this year failed to push through a bill in Congress that would have allowed an end run around PURPA.
Oregon’s last in-state coal plant is scheduled to retire in 2020. Yet Oregon still gets one-third of its energy from coal, much of that coming from out-of-state coal plants. $295 million leaves Oregon every year to pay for out-of-state coal energy.
“While Oregonians across the state demand more leadership from their utility company to advance clean, affordable energy solutions, Pacific Power still gets two-thirds of its energy from out-of-state coal plants that put our families at risk and prevents the expansion of locally produced clean energy,” continued Arthur. “Now, Pacific Power wants to gut one of the most important tools we have to foster the growth of clean energy, and which has been an important driver in Pacific Power actually investing in the clean energy our communities want. We deserve better, and our officials need to protect clean energy jobs and businesses for our state.”
Renewable energy has already brought more than $9 billion of investment to the Oregon economy, and the wind and solar industries combined have created an estimated 5,000 family-wage jobs throughout Oregon. According to data from the Department of Energy, even a fraction of Oregon’s solar and wind resources could provide electricity to all Oregonians and allow the state to sell excess energy to other states. PacifiCorp’s own expert, Bruce Griswold, acknowledged in documents provided to the Public Utilities Commission that clean energy projects proposed in Oregon could supply more than half of Oregon’s average electricity demand: “The 925 MW of executed and proposed PURPA contracts in Oregon...could supply 56 percent of [PacifiCorp’s] average Oregon retail load…”
The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.