Library filed under Energy Policy from Oregon
Big investments in renewable energy could mean higher electric bills, hitting households and businesses during high unemployment and a weak economy. Oregon's biggest electric companies, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric, filed for rate increases last week with state utility regulators. Both cited renewable energy projects as the reason.
When the government's $787 billion economic stimulus package became law last month, the Bonneville Power Administration was one of the many beneficiaries. The federal utility wasted no time making use of its share, rolling out plans for a major transmission project ...The project now aims to provide service for 873 megawatts of energy - about 700 megawatts of that from wind power. That wouldn't have been the case seven years ago, he said.
Oregon taxpayers are shelling out tens of millions of dollars to subsidize green energy projects, making the state a magnet for solar and wind companies. But an investigation by The Oregonian shows that the money also is going to risky ventures with questionable environmental benefits and to prosperous companies that need no incentives but are cashing in anyway. ..."It's gotten out of hand," says Chuck Sheketoff, director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, which studies the impact of state tax policies on low-income residents. "It's being scammed. It's not serving its purpose."
The most important factor to consider when evaluating the environmental impact of wind generation is that the power source is inconsistent and intermittent. This variability can present substantial challenges to incorporating large amounts of wind power into a grid system, since to maintain grid stability, energy supply and demand must remain in balance. In order to integrate wind energy, utility companies must provide a power load to meet the base requirements of the population.
Steens Mountain stretches through the open lands of southeastern Oregon's Harney County for more than 30 miles, a twisting spine of rock and brush punctuated by steep gorges and rushing streams. Remote and rugged, it has come to symbolize the state's wild, austere side. It's also becoming a battleground for a wind power developer that sees gold in the Steens' stiff breezes -- and red in the eyes of environmentalists. At issue are about 200 wind turbines that Columbia Energy Partners wants to build along the northern boundary of the Steens Mountain Wilderness. ...The conflicts come into sharp relief in a state that prizes its green credentials and its pristine lands.
Chris Crowley, head of Columbia Energy Partners, filed separate applications for the three wind projects he called the Echanis, East Ridge and West Ridge wind farms. They lie next to each other ...Each would generate a maximum of 104 megawatts. Any project with a capacity of 105 megawatts or more triggers review by the state. The county reviews smaller ones. "These are blatant attempts to circumvent the public process," said Dave Becker, an attorney with the Oregon Natural Desert Association. The state's Energy Facility Siting Council should review the projects, he said.
California, whose laws require it to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010, has its eyes on Oregon's growing wind power industry. "They're certainly trying to grab it everywhere they can," said Lee Beyer, chairman of the Oregon Public Utility Commission. ...California already imports hydropower in the summer; Oregon and Washington take deliveries from California generators in cold winter months. But Oregon and Washington also face clean energy laws and want the energy too.
California is the big dog in the fight, reaching into the Northwest to buy large amounts of wind power from Columbia Gorge projects. Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and San Francisco's Pacific Gas & Electric are among those securing long-term contracts for hundreds of megawatts of wind power in Oregon and Washington. "They're certainly trying to grab it everywhere they can," said Lee Beyer, chairman of the Oregon Public Utility Commission, which regulates the state's large utilities. The motivation behind California's quest? A rigorous law that says renewable energy must account for 20 percent of electricity sales by 2010.
Southern California Edison has signed a contract with an energy company to build a 909-megawatt wind farm in north-central Oregon, which would provide enough electricity for about 600,000 homes, according to Vanessa McGrady, a spokeswoman for the utility. The utility already gets about 16 percent of its energy from renewable sources and has signed contracts that will soon move that number to 20 percent, officials said.
Eight months after the Oregon Renewable Energy Act was signed into law, Pacific Power - the utility with the most customers in Central Oregon - is already working to meet the state's mandate to deliver 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025. The utility, which provides power to 29 percent of the state, is building wind farms throughout the Northwest and hopes to generate 3,400 megawatts of energy by 2013. ...Representative Chuck Burley, R-Bend, believes customers will end up paying more for their energy, primarily because they will be financing the construction of new, renewable generating facilities. "Overall, the ratepayers will end up picking up the tabs on these things," Burley said. Burley said he supports renewable energy, but he voted against the act because it didn't include caps on rate increases.
Pacific Power is soliciting proposals for small renewable energy projects that can be up and running by the end of 2009. Oregon's renewable energy standard, passed in the 2007 legislative session, requires the state's largest utilities to get 25 percent of their electricity from new renewable energy by 2025, meeting interim benchmarks before then. Pacific Power's request specifies individual projects that produce less than 100 megawatts of electricity to be produced or delivered into its service network, which includes Oregon, Washington, Northern California, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. ...Utilities that don't meet the renewable energy standard benchmarks will be subject to fines yet to be determined
Congress' failure to include a renewable energy tax credit in the much-touted energy bill passed late last year could chill wind-farm development in the Columbia River Gorge and elsewhere, industry and utility leaders say. For several years, wind developers have taken advantage of a tax credit based on the amount of energy a project generates. That incentive is to expire at the end of this year. "Manufacturers need to plan far beyond that," said Ditlev Engel, chief executive of the world's largest wind turbine supplier, Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark. Engel was in Portland Wednesday to address the Portland Business Alliance. The production tax credit has helped fuel three record-breaking years of wind-farm development. The American Wind Energy Association says 5,244 megawatts of wind energy were installed last year, more than double the previous two years combined.
The city of Portland could become part owner of a wind farm east of The Dalles if a deal now in the works with Sherman County and the farmers who live there takes hold. Portland officials are pursuing the idea as a means of offsetting the city government's own energy consumption, which is about 50 megawatts a year. ...Commissioner Dan Saltzman, whose office is leading the negotiations, said while green power generally costs more, the plan ideally would enable the city to meet its renewable energy goal without increasing its energy bill. He expects the investment to pay for itself in about 10 years and that the city ultimately could draw revenue from the project.
Looking east into Gilliam County and north into Washington, turbines are strung over ridgelines as far as the eye can see. And there are nowhere near enough of them. ...West Coast utilities and independent power producers are locked in a land rush to secure the best wind sites and the power they produce. Coupled with a worldwide shortage of turbines and a falling dollar, the resulting scarcity is driving up the cost of wind power, a burden electricity ratepayers will shoulder.
Electricity is so cool. Always there for us, at the flick of a switch. But where, exactly, does it come from? And what gets hurt on its way? When deciding how to generate power, this much is clear. Oregonians don't like nukes. Too scary. And they don't like coal. Too dirty. They're not even sure about liquefied natural gas. What is that stuff, anyway? Hydro? Sure, Oregonians used to like hydro. But that was then: before salmon started disappearing by the gazillion. This is now: We're tearing out dams, not building new ones. But wait, here comes the answer: blowing in the wind. Make that in the safe, reliable, clean, green, free, fish-hugging wind. We all love windmills, right? But hang on there, Bub. What about loving windmills in your backyard?
Parents saving for college, mobile home owners facing eviction, and businesses that generate or use alternative energy are among the beneficiaries of a wide-ranging tax break bill signed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Tuesday......The energy initiative, which ranks as the biggest tax break in the bill, will expand the credit for businesses to build wind farms, use solar or otherwise boost the use of clean energy. Now the credit is 35 percent of costs, with a cap of $3.5 million. The new law increases the credit to 50 percent, with a $10 million cap. It's estimated to cost the state at least $6 million a year by 2009-11.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law one of the nation's toughest renewable energy standards Wednesday, requiring large utilities to generate 25 percent of the state's electricity from renewable resources such as wind, sunlight and biomass by 2025.
A controversial renewable energy bill blew away the opposition Wednesday with a 41 to 18 House vote that saw many Republicans join the majority Democrats in landing Gov. Ted Kulongoski a big environmental win. Kulongoski, a second-term Democrat, had made Senate Bill 838 the centerpiece of his energy agenda, touting it as a way to green-up Oregon's image and make the state a leader in clean-energy technologies, such as wind and solar power.
Some of Oregon's largest industrial companies are warning the Legislature that a much-touted renewable energy bill could harm their competitiveness and cost the state well-paying jobs. The manufacturing sector, which accounts for 10 percent of the state's work force, should not be put at risk in an effort to promote renewable energy and fuel, and development of an emerging clean-technology sector, these companies say. They say the bill lacks adequate protections against unexpected rate increases, to which energy-intensive companies are particularly vulnerable.
After a vigorous debate, the Oregon Senate passed a bill Tuesday to require the state's largest utilities eventually to draw 25 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind, waves, sunlight and manure. Supporters argued the bill was a necessary step toward reducing global warming and protecting Oregonians from a volatile fossil fuel market. Opponents said they were concerned that setting quotas would increase the cost to consumers.