Utilities, enviros agree to ax coal

Source: By Ted Sickinger, Portland Oregonian • Posted: Sunday, January 10, 2016

Environmentalists and officials at Oregon’s two largest utility companies have reached an agreement that could radically change the state’s electric supply in an agreement that looks to double renewable energy by 2040 and eliminate its dependance on coal by 2035.

The groups plan to introduce the bill in the 2016 legislative session. If the bill is enacted, environmentalists have agreed to drop ballot measures that would require additional changes.

If enacted, Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp would be required to shift 50 percent of their customers’ electricity demand to renewable energies such as wind and solar by 2040. The changes would occur incrementally, with a target of reaching 25 percent renewable sources by 2025, and would step up incrementally thereafter.

The pivot from fossil fuels would require electric companies to invest billions of dollars in new energy sources to keep up with the mandates, although no concrete cost estimates have been established.

Achieving the proposal would hinge on the development of energy-storage technology and a unified transmission system that would allow companies to share energy as needed, due to the intermittence of wind and solar resources.

Advocates of the proposal say the agreement allows sufficient time for companies to shift to fossil fuels without significant utility increases to customers. They say the transition also could put Oregon on track to achieve its goal of reducing its carbon footprint to 75 percent below its 1990 levels in a 35-year time frame