Oregon plan would remove barriers to clean energy

Oregon, already a recognized clean energy leader, would double-down on efficiency, renewable energy and clean transportation under the 10-year plan of Governor John Kitzhaber.

The state trails only California in the CleanEdge 2012 State Clean Energy Index, "largely due to unwavering consumer-driven demand for clean-tech products and services".

Despite that broad public acceptance, the state is still missing "a comprehensive energy strategy that meets the state's carbon reduction, energy conservation and renewable energy goals and timetables... while enhancing Oregon's economic objectives", Kitzhaber says in the draft plan [ PDF].

Oregon aims to reduce emissions to 10% from 1990 levels by 2020, and generate 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

Kitzhaber's plan seeks to remove three major barriers to the development of new clean energy infrastructure: "outdated and inadequate energy transmission and infrastructure; inefficient and disjointed local, state and federal regulatory processes; and limited public resources".

He would establish regional, "landscape-level planning" of transmission and generation projects -- beginning in Eastern Oregon, a wind-development hotbed -- to balance these goals with environmental conservation. New projects would also be assigned a "strong project officer" from within state government to help coordinate the review processes of various local, state, federal and Native American governments and agencies. Kitzhaber would also see local and state development rules brought into accord.

His plan also calls for a stricter definition of what constitutes a single energy facility. In the past, developers have split larger projects into separate units of less than 105MW, thereby receiving local, rather than-state level permitting review.

The cash-strapped state has backed away from the controversial Business Energy Tax Credit that was a boon to wind developers (and a drain on state coffers) at the end of the last decade. Still, Kitzhaber is looking for creative ways to open financing for energy projects.

Kitzhaber would see Oregon team with other states to develop a new financing tool to attract private investment in transmission, energy facilities and other projects. This Multistate Infrastructure Exchange would aggregate projects in a bid to make them more attractive to private investors.

Kitzhaber also serves as vice-chair of the Governors Wind Energy Coalition and commits the state to working with that group and Oregon's congressional delegation to encourage reauthorization of the federal production tax credit.

In addition to encouraging renewable energy development, Kitzhaber wants Oregon to meet all of its electricity load growth in the coming decade with efficiency and conservation improvements. That's more than what the 85% envisioned in the Northwest Power and Planning Council's latest plan for the region.

Kitzhaber acknowledges that Oregon's position as a leader in efficiency will make further gains more challenging, requiring "new data, new financing tools, rate design changes and trained workers".

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