Power of Community
July 2013 Power of Community
The Oregon Legislature has wrapped up a rigorous six-month session after tackling a full plate of tax, education and budget issues.
On the energy front, the session came on the heels of Gov. Kitzhaber’s Ten-Year Energy Action Plan. Dozens of legislative proposals could have affected your electric bill.
Oregon’s electric cooperatives were heavily involved during the session. The highlight was the nearly 60 Oregon electric co-op leaders who traveled to the state capitol to advocate on behalf of more than 200,000 members of Oregon’s electric co-ops.
Here are a few of the issues electric cooperatives faced during the session:
The Legislature debated legislation to encourage customer-owned renewable generation, such as solar or wind power.While electric co-ops work closely with consumers on net metering of renewable generation, we told lawmakers new mandates could shift costs to low-income consumers. We are pleased the Legislature kept local control of these programs instead of a one-size-fits-all mandate that may not work well in your local community.
The Legislature also debated whether to study placing a tax on carbon emissions. While Oregon’s electric co-ops have a small carbon footprint, we expressed concerns that an Oregon-only carbon tax is regressive and would do little to address global warming. Whatever the outcome of the study, it is clear the Legislature will continue to debate the issue of global warming.
Oregon’s largest investor-owned utilities are subject to the state’s renewable mandate of 25 percent by 2025.
Oregon’s electric co-ops are concerned about potential unintended consequences of the state’s renewable mandate that would place some smaller utilities in the same category as Portland General Electric or Pacific Power because energy-intensive data centers move into their territory.
While legislation did not pass to fix this unintended consequence of the renewable mandate, we continue to seek a solution that protects consumers from higher electric bills as a result of the RPS.
Lawmakers also passed legislation to improve operations of the Oregon Department of Energy and make it more responsive to its stakeholders. As a portion of the Oregon Department of Energy’s budget is funded by assessments on energy suppliers—which ultimately are passed on to you—Oregon’s electric co-ops worked hard on legislation to make sure the department is accountable and transparent.
The 2014 legislative session is just around the corner, and many of these issues will be in play again. We will continue to remind legislators of our enviable record of providing our members renewable, emission-free electricity and our aggressive energy-efficiency programs.
As always, we will need your help to remind legislators of the importance of local control and safe, affordable and reliable electricity. n
Provided by the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association for its Power of Community members.