Oregon Regulators Set Ambitious Timeline for Clean Energy Programs

The Oregon Public Utility Commission has released a broad timeline of energy issues it will tackle over the next couple of years, expecting demand response issues to be taken up between 2017 and 2018 and a rulemaking on solar capacity standards to finish later this year, according to a blog post from an energy law firm on the site Lexology.

The PUC held a workshop last week to examine a variety of dockets regulators will consider, wrote Derek Green, an energy attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.  Much of the load, he wrote, is a result of the state’s decision to boost Oregon’s renewable portfolio standard to 50% by 2040.

Though SB 1547, signed last month by Gov. Kate Brown (D), is widely known for its renewable standard changes, the bill included many other initiatives including phasing out coal, implementing demand response programs and electrifying the transportation sector.

Regulators in Oregon will be busy for the next two years. At a workshop last week examining the slate of dockets the PUC will be considering, the commission released a general timeline that packs a lot into a fairly short period.

Issues the PUC will take up within the next two years include community solar, demand response, electric vehicles, a review of avoided cost methodology, renewable incentives and energy storage proposals. You can find Oregon’s proposed schedule here, but Green cautions that it is likely to change.

“Two immediate takeaways are reflected in the timeline,” he wrote in a note posted to Lexology. “The first is simply the breadth of different energy matters that are affected or potentially affected by SB 1547, and how the OPUC sees the new law fitting in with its ongoing dockets. The second is the ambitious timeline for these proceedings.”

“The OPUC is expecting to be very busy in the next few years, adopting rules and implementing new programs that could dramatically change the energy industry in Oregon,” he wrote.

Under the new law, the state’s biggest utilities, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power will have to eliminate coal imports by 2035 while meeting 50% of consumer demand with renewable energy. The new rule exempts electric cooperatives and municipal utilities from having to do so, however.

While Oregon is working to reduce its emissions, some say the bill will not have any real impact because out-of-state plants will continue to operate. Opponents of the law argued that it would allow coal-fired plants to keep running while Oregon would be served with more expensive renewable energy.

“Presumably those utilities will simply reallocate their coal plants to customers in other states or engage some swapping behavior so the conscience of Oregonians can be clear,” NARUC President Travis Kavulla told Utility Dive. “But it’s pretty clear that this bill won’t actually reduce carbon emissions despite that being the ostensible purpose of it.”



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