Oregon passes bill to phase out coal, set 50% by 2040 renewable energy mandate

On Wednesday the Oregon Senate passed a bill to require the state’s two large investor-owned utilities to procure at least 50% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2040. SB 1547 had already passed the Oregon House. It now goes to Governor Kate Brown, who backed the bill, to be signed into law.

This is a substantial increase from the current renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 25% by 2025, and will establish the fifth most-ambitious RPS policy in the United States, after Hawaii (100% by 2045), Vermont (75% by 2032), California (50% by 2030) and New York (50% by 2030).

The bill will also force utilities to eliminate coal-fired generation from their electricity supply by 2035. Oregon currently gets 33% of its electricity from coal, according to the Oregon Department of Energy. Finally, it will establish a community solar program.

The bill does not increase the renewable energy requirements for Oregon’s public utilities, which represent 29% of power consumption. These utilities are required to procure from 5-10% of their power from renewables by 2025. Finally, it sets a 4% annual cap on utility rate increases.

Oregon currently gets 45% of its electricity from hydroelectric plants. Electricity from pre-existing large hydro plants are typically not counted towards RPS mandates, and due to this hydroelectric capacity National Resources Defense Council estimates that by 2040 70-90% of Oregon’s electricity will be carbon-free.

Oregon also gets 5% of its power from wind, including the output of the 845 MW Shepherds Flat Wind Farm on the Columbia Gorge. The Department of Energy puts solar as meeting only 0.2% of demand.

While Oregon has strong solar irradiation in the sparsely populated eastern two-thirds of the state, the largest solar project under construction known to pv magazine is a 6.2 MW project 80 kilometers east of Klamath Falls.

Correction: This article was updated on March 4 at 9:00 AM EST. An earlier version stated that Oregon had passed the fourth most aggressive RPS in the United States; however I missed Vermont. The article has been updated to show that Oregon’s RPS is actually the fifth most aggressive and to include a link policies in Vermont and Hawaii.