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Oregon decides to go 50 percent renewable energy

Oregon just decided to a lot of renewable energy to its electricity mix.
Oregon decides to go 50 percent renewable energy
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Yesterday, the Oregon state senate approved a bill that would increase Oregon’s renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) to 50 percent, while phasing coal out of the state’s electricity mix. Having already passed the house, the bill will now be sent to Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign it into law.

The measure firmly establishes Oregon as a renewable energy leader. Vermont, California and Hawaii are the only other states with renewable energy requirements of 50 percent or higher, and Oregon is the first state to officially ban coal via legislative action.

The new law, called the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition plan, is also particularly noteworthy because of the diversity of the coalition that supported it. Oregon’s two largest utilities were in favor of the bill, along with business groups, community organizations and environmental advocates. Supporters as varied as Pacific Power and the Sierra Club all advocated for the bill, recognizing the initiative was the in the best interests of all Oregonians.

The Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan will have a big effect on carbon emissions. It’s expected that it will reduce carbon pollution by 30 million metric tons, or the same amount as 6.4 million cars’ worth.

Here’s what some people are saying in the wake of this historic news.

  • “Through the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Bill, Oregon has the opportunity to become a national leader. By transitioning away from a dirty, antiquated form of energy and embracing clean, renewable energy, this bill is a win-win for public health and the environment.” Carrie Nyssen, Regional Director, American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific
  • “This is a solid win for Oregon ratepayers. The risk of high-cost coal is gone and low-risk, affordable clean energy will increase. Our wallets and our values have been protected.” Bob Jenks, Executive Director of the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon
  • “Maintaining the affordability and the reliability of the electric grid is very important to us. Working through the legislative process with a diverse range of stakeholders, we have meaningfully advanced Oregon’s clean energy future in a way that is both workable and affordable.” Scott Bolton, Pacific Power vice president of external affairs

Oregon’s decision to deploy a stronger RPS is a smart choice from a policy perspective. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently examined the effects of state-level RPS policies. Their findings were overwhelmingly positive.

State RPS policies resulted in $7.5 billion in annual environmental benefits from reduced air emissions, 27 billion gallons in reduced water consumption annually, $1.3 billion to $4.9 billion in reduced consumer energy prices, and 200,000 American jobs and $20 billion in annual gross domestic product from the renewable energy developed to meet state RPS’s through the year 2013.

Hopefully other states will follow Oregon’s lead in the coming months and years. The New York state legislature is also currently mulling a 50 percent renewable energy standard, and similar initiatives may end up of the dockets of state legislatures throughout the country.

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Greg is the Writer and Content Manager for AWEA. He is the head editor and writer for Into the Wind, and oversees AWEA's online content and opinion writing. Greg holds a Master's degree in Global Environmental Policy from American University's School of International Service. He also holds a Bachelor's degree in International Relations and Journalism from Lehigh University.

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