OR Passes Emissions Bill

FRIDAY, JULY 9, 2021

Oregon lawmakers recently passed legislation requiring that the state’s power grid reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2030 and 90% by 2035.

The decarbonization plan, House Bill 2021, was passed by Senate on a 16-12 vote after passing the House the day before. The bill now heads to Gov. Kate Brown for signing.

House Bill 2021

Targeting the state’s two major power companies, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, HB 2021 outlines a timetable in which the utilities would be required to eliminate emissions associated with the electricity they provide.

According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, emissions from electricity accounted for 30% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

“This 100% clean by 2040 policy makes Oregon a leader among the states striving to get to carbon-free electricity,” said Meredith Connolly, Oregon director of Climate Solutions. According to additional reports, the other two West Coast states, California and Washington, are aiming to decarbonize their electric grids by 2045, however, Oregon is the latest to lead such initiatives.

At least 17 other states within the nation have also announced plans for power grid decarbonization.

When the legislation was previously pushed through Congress under a cap-and-trade system, the bill was refused by some in fear that it would put the grid in a vulnerable position. Both PGE and Pacific Power, on the other hand, were reported to be in favor of the legislation, as it allows them to be temporarily exempted from new requirements if they increase rates by more than 6% a year or threaten the reliability of the power grid.

The “reliability clause” also keeps the door open for regulators to consider granting a temporary exemption to an electric utility if complying with the bill or its clean energy plan could conflict with standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or jeopardize grid reliability in other ways. While Connolly reports that its not a total “get-out-of-jail-free card,” it is a temporary reprieve, if needed.

After months of negotiation between a diverse coalition of stakeholders, including the utilities, the latest legislation was written and adopted by state lawmakers.

“Look at the temperatures expected this weekend, and ongoing and prolonged drought,” state Rep. Pam Marsh (D), one of the bill’s chief proponents, said on the House floor while speaking about HB 2021. “What I know when I look at that is if we fail to address the underlying conditions, we are just going to be back in this Capitol, year after year, trying to help communities out of disastrous situations.”

With Oregon’s goal of achieving zero emissions by 2040, the bill requires that regulated entities submit plans to reduce emissions by 80% from a baseline amount by 2030 and 90% by 2035.

In addition, the bill also:

  • Bans expansion or new construction of power plants that burn natural gas or other fossil fuels;
  • Sets labor standards for any large-scale renewable energy projects built in the state;
  • Includes $50 million in grants for community renewable energy projects in cities other than Portland, which has its own fund for such projects;
  • Allows cities in Oregon to create so-called “green tariffs,” where they agree to pay utilities more money for power from a cleaner mix of sources in order to meet their own climate goals; and
  • Requires power companies to consider input from low-income ratepayers, environmental justice communities, federally recognized tribes and others as they develop strategies for reducing emissions.

According to an analysis conducted by Climate Solutions, Northwest Energy Coalition, and Renewable Northwest, with the passing of the bill, nearly 2,765 MW of new renewables could be developed by PGE and Pacific Power parent company PacifiCorp.

In 2019, the state was already reported to have 592 MW in solar energy and 3,415 MW in wind energy.

Currently, PacifiCorp is in the process of its 2020 all-source request for proposals, and recently released its a final shortlist that includes over 3,400 MW of new wind, solar and battery resources.

“It provides a clear path for this critical transition while protecting the affordability and reliability of electricity, and it establishes greenhouse gas reduction targets that are in line with the climate goals we set for ourselves late last year,” said PGE Vice President of Public Affairs Dave Robertson.

Robertson added that the legislation is an important step toward a clean energy future, and that the company plans to optimize its portfolio, in addition to taking advantage of efficient market operations and expanding transmission, so that customers will be able to access low-cost renewables.

Additional, and more immediate plans the state utilizes will be working on, according to Connolly, will be the building out of clean energy resources and working on demand response, microgrids, and local solar and storage to reduce reliance on gas and coal.

“Those are all major shifts in how we do this, but they're all possible,” Connolly said. “Resource adequacy and reliability are big topics of discussion here and I think what we all recognize—including our partners at the utilities—is they are not insurmountable. They're planning issues.”

Recent Emission Reduction Plans

Last month, North Carolina House Republicans presented a new energy bill backed by Duke Energy that expects to reduce carbon emissions and retire several coal-fired plants ahead of schedule. House Bill 951, otherwise known by its short title, “Modernize Energy Generation,” was reportedly developed from utility input, customer and business groups and renewable energy boosters.

While coming in a little under Gov. Roy Cooper's goal of reducing carbon emissions 70% below 2005 levels by 2030, the new legislation proposes a 61% reduction by the same timeframe, in addition to keeping a few coal plants running beyond 2027, however retiring several other plants earlier than previously scheduled.

In addition, the legislation outlines that 55% of renewable energy generation is to be owned by Duke and that the remaining 45% will be owned by independent power producers. All entities will perform under a multiyear rate plan, which is expected to reduce legal costs and provide more predictability.

To make the switch, the bill plans to retire units 1 and 2 of the Marshall coal plant by 2026, eight years earlier than planned, and replace it with natural gas. The Allen coal plant would also retire a year earlier, in 2023, and would also be converted for renewable energy and storage.

Duke’s Roxboro plant, however, relies on the outcome of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Southgate extension. According to reports, the plant could retire in 2027, but would need to tap into the pipeline if it were to successfully convert to into a gas plant.

In addition to these initiatives, the proposed legislation also expands the Competitive Procurement of Renewable Energy law so that other forms of renewable energy, like solar power, could be obtained for Duke’s electric grid through a competitive bid process. The measure would also allow Duke to spend money to pursue a permit to find a locale for a new, smaller “modular” nuclear facility in North Carolina, according to a bill summary from Szoka’s office.

Although some have been reportedly pleased with the bill, Democratic legislators have been voicing concerns throughout meetings with Republican leadership. While further discussions are slated to take place regarding the bill’s possible passing, the legislation has been touted as what could be the largest change to North Carolina’s clean energy policy since 2017.

In the same month, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced plans to sign a bill that would accelerate the construction of a $2 billion, 525 Kilovolt Greenlink transmission network. While the recently passed legislation will open access to remote renewable energy resource areas and connect 585 miles of the state’s eastern, western and southern regions, it also requires a $100 million investment in electric vehicle charging stations to help the state reach a 100% clean energy goal by 2050.

In accelerating the grid expansion plan, which gained final state Assembly and Senate approval at the end of May, Nevada’s investor-owned utility NV Energy is required to include completion of both phases of the transmission project by no later than Dec. 31, 2028—roughly three years ahead of schedule.

As part of the legislation, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada is also requiring that every transmission provider in the state join a regional transmission organization by Jan. 1, 2030. These measures arrive in wake of the state’s goals to have clean energy to make up 21% of its power delivery this year, with plans to steadily increase to 50% by 2030. Utilities will also be working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 80% within the same decade-long timeline.

According to Sisolak, “Clean energy is intrinsically linked to Nevada’s job recovery and economic opportunities.” In creating the push for the early completion of the Greenlink system, not only will the state see 555 miles of new 345-kV transmission, but the project is also slated to open the state to $10 billion in private investment in renewable energy.

This investment is achieved by connecting to Nevada’s renewable energy zone, which contains about 5,000 MW of underdeveloped resources that could not be developed without added transmission infrastructure. NV Energy reports that includes geothermal and wind resources in northern Nevada and solar farms in southern Nevada.

The project also builds a foundation for the state to transfer energy between Nevada and the developing Western Grid. By 2031, 1,000 MW of base load generation is planned for retirement in northern Nevada.


Tagged categories: Carbon dioxide; Carbon footprint; Emissions; Energy codes; Environmental Controls; Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Power; Power; Power Plants; Quality Control; Regulations; Solar energy; Utilities; Wind Farm

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