Quantcast

Oregon Passes Historic Bill to Phase Out Coal and Double Down on Renewables

Business

Oregon just became the first state to pass legislation to get off of coal and double down on renewable energy instead. The Oregon Legislature voted Wednesday to eliminate coal generation from the state's future and committed its largest utilities to supply at least half of their electricity from renewable resources by 2040.

Combined with Oregon's existing hydroelectric base, that means the state will be on track for an electricity system that's 70 to 90 percent carbon-free by that date. The legislation will make Oregon's energy among the cleanest in the country and puts the state in the growing top tier of renewable energy standards, along with California, New York and Hawaii.

The Clean Energy and Coal Transition Act that received final approval yesterday prevailed with bipartisan support because, as explained in this previous blog, stopping dirty coal deliveries into Oregon will cut off the market for coal plants and open up the state to more wind and solar power, just as the costs for those emissions-free resources are dropping dramatically.

Under the bill that gained final passage by the Senate yesterday, Oregonians will no longer have to pay for any coal power by 2035, at the latest. This legislation, which Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign in the coming weeks, will drastically clean up the energy Oregonians use and eliminate the need for new large gas combustion turbines as old coal plants go the way of the dinosaurs.

Cleaning up its electricity grid will also help Oregon clean up its carbon emissions from transportation by converting the gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles on Oregon's roadways to electric cars and trucks and plugging them into its low-carbon grid. The legislation directs utilities to propose significant investments to accelerate the deployment of charging stations for electric cars, trucks and buses in a manner that also supports integrating renewable power onto the electric grid.

Success from Consensus

Oregon's new clean energy future was charted by unique coalition—not the usual environmentalists vs. utilities, but true consensus: regional and national environmental groups worked with the two largest electric utilities in Oregon—Portland General Electric and Pacific Power—and the state's utility consumer advocate. Each had good reasons to support the bill. Environmentalists will get a long-term strategy to clean Oregon's energy mix. The utilities, which import coal electricity from power plants in Montana, Wyoming and Utah, gained an assured pathway, allowing them to plan and invest for a stable and affordable power supply, which also is important in planning their compliance across the region with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan to limit power plant emissions. Although the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Obama administration's plan to fight climate change by cutting the emissions fueling it, Oregon's action is further proof that climate action can—and must—continue.

Meanwhile, the consumer advocate, the Citizens' Utility Board, was able to ensure that Oregon customers would not have to pay to keep aging coal plants puffing and sputtering along indefinitely. Reducing the amount of electricity generated by burning coal also will help avoid the worst effects of climate change—which could have huge financial and health costs to households in the state. If we needed another reminder of the risks of failure, just last week there was news that sea levels were rising faster than at any time in the last 2,800 years; and that this effect, as so many others, is traceable directly back to ballooning carbon emissions.

Oregon's commitment to a clean energy future—added to other promises made by states and cities across America and complemented by strong EPA actions—are critical to making real the Paris commitments to cut carbon emissions as promised by 187 nations earlier this year.

Worth noting in this respect, for those who think cutting carbon is a purely American or northwestern concern: China's carbon emissions appear to have fallen again in 2015, for the second straight year, reflecting a two-year drop in that country's coal combustion that is equal to all of Japan's coal consumption. At the same time, China brought 32.5 megawatts of new wind and 18.3 megawatts of new solar online in 2015, both records.

Commitments add up; commitments persuade. Commitments like Oregon's are essential to the global effort to contain and reduce carbon dioxide emissions to levels that can protect the Earth for future generations.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

A Behind the Scenes Look at How Solar Energy Beat the Odds

Top 25 American Cities With the Best Public Transit

Presidential Candidates Talk Climate, Energy on Super Tuesday

2015 Was Record-Breaking Year for Investment in Renewable Energy

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

California Condor at soaring at the Grand Canyon. Pavliha / iStock / Getty Images

North America's largest bird passed an important milestone this spring when the 1,000th California condor chick hatched since recovery efforts began, NPR reported Sunday.

Read More Show Less
The Roloway monkey has been pushed closer to extinction. Sonja Wolters / WAPCA / IUCN

The statistics around threatened species are looking grim. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added more than 9,000 new additions to its Red List of threatened species, pushing the total number of species on the list to more than 105,000 for the first time, according to the Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images

The campaign to re-elect President Donald Trump has found a new way to troll liberals and sea turtles.

Read More Show Less
Night long exposure photograph of wildifires in Santa Clarita, California. FrozenShutter / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristy Dahl

Last week, UCS released Killer Heat, a report analyzing how the frequency of days with a dangerously hot heat index — the combination of temperature and humidity the National Weather Service calls the "feels like" temperature — will change in response to the global emissions choices we make in the coming decades.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A Zara store in Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Timahaowemi / CC BY-SA 3.0

Green is the new black at Zara.

The Spanish fast fashion behemoth has made a bold move to steer its industry to a more environmentally friendly future for textiles. Inditex, Zara's parent company, announced that all the polyester, cotton and linen it uses will be sustainably produced by 2025, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Whether you enjoy running recreationally, competitively, or as part of your overall wellness goals, it's a great way to improve your heart health.

Read More Show Less
Text from the plaque that will mark the site where Ok glacier once was. Rice University

By Andrea Germanos

A climate change victim in Iceland is set to be memorialized with a monument that underscores the urgent crisis.

Read More Show Less