If you pay attention to news about the electric utility industry, you will hear and read a lot about a future with “100% clean energy.” It is a worthwhile goal, but it also is easier said than done.
Oregon’s electric cooperatives are some of the cleanest utilities—not only in the United States but in the world. Depending on the year, Oregon electric co-ops are more than 90% emission-free because of our reliance on the incredible federal hydropower system marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration, which also includes output from the emission-free Columbia Generating Station.
There is legislation in the Oregon Legislature calling for electric utilities to have 100% clean portfolios by 2040, with caveats for system reliability and other factors. There is a strong rationale for electric cooperatives to not be included in this legislation.
For one, BPA sells a product for an entire region, not just for Oregon, and is governed by a variety of federal statutes. Moreover, we are at the mercy of a variable hydro system. Some years are better for water than others, and no legislation can change that.
But one of the most compelling reasons is the lack of consistency in our state’s policies. Our clean, renewable energy supply is at risk from the state of Oregon, which has placed a high priority on removing the lower Snake River dams, a critical source of clean energy for the Northwest. At its face, it makes no sense to mandate a 100% clean energy future while removing clean energy resources that BPA Administrator John Hairston lauded for maintaining reliability during the brutal February storms.
Oregon’s electric cooperatives will continue to work with policymakers on a clean energy future for our state. We have always led the way and will continue to do so for years to come. And that is something I am 100% sure about.