- Two Oregon lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban the state's utilities from generating or purchasing electricity from coal-fired power plants by 2025. All coal fired power would have to be replaced by resources that are at least 90% cleaner than coal in terms of carbon emissions, the Oregonian reports.
- Natural gas would not be a candidate to replace coal — which supplies about a third of the state's power — under this bill, as gas is not 90% cleaner than coal. A faster transition away from coal is necessary, supporters argue, to prevent stranded asset expenses burdening ratepayers when federal emissions regulations are imposed.
- Oregon utilities PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric, which have been replacing their coal generation with natural gas, say the rigidity of the legislation could impose “billions and billions of dollars” in transition costs and compromise reliability because of the variability of wind and the transmission system’s unreadiness to integrate higher levels of wind and hydro.
The "Coal to Clean" legislation, as backers have dubbed it, "requires electric companies to replace coal-derived generating resources with mix of energy resources that are at least 90% cleaner than coal-derived generating resources," according to the bill's text.
That means utilities would not only be barred from generating coal in state, but purchasing it from out of state plants as well, and new gas facilities couldn't replace it. That would leave Oregon's utilities looking to wind, hydro and solar, as well as efficiency and demand response measures, to pick up about a third of the state's energy demand.
"It's not the right way to go about this transition that we all agree that we need to be on," said PacifiCorp spokesman Paul Vogel. Oregon's utilities are not thrilled about the bill.
The legislation, SB 477, follows the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, is supported by the Oregon Conservation Network and Renewable Northwest, and is endorsed by the Citizen's Utility Board (CUB) of Oregon, the state’s residential ratepayer advocate.
"The theory here is let's phase these out in a reasonable timetable of ten years and do this in a way that's least cost to ratepayers," said CUB Executive Director Bob Jenks, who supports the bill.
The concerns about reliability and inadequate resources fail to consider Pacificorp’s new participation in the Energy Imbalance Market being run by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), soon to be joined by NV Energy.
The Energy Gateway high capacity transmission system will also soon link the wind resources of the high plains to the Pacific Northwest.
With CAISO’s state-of-the-art five-minute-ahead marketplace, new wire capacity, and new supply-demand dynamics, Oregon will be able to draw on geographic diversity to import renewables and export its hydro.