Dear Lane Electric Community:
The Oregon Legislature has energy issues on its plate during February’s short session. Lane Electric joins together with Oregon’s 17 electric co-ops as the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (ORECA) to monitor proposed legislation and speak up when electric co-ops—that is, your electricity bills—are affected by legislative proposals. Here’s a brief look at what’s happening in Salem.
Transitioning Oregon Off of Coal
There is a legislative proposal to have Oregon’s energy consumption be coal-free by 2035. Pacific Power and Portland General are investor-owned utilities (IOUs) that own coal-fired power generation resources and together they provide about 70% of Oregon with energy. In return for the IOUs agreeing to go coal-free for Oregon, advocacy and environmental groups agreed to withdraw a similar ballot measure.
Lane Electric does not own coal-fired resources. We serve you with carbon-free energy: hydroelectric, nuclear, and solar. However, despite our coal-free power the legislative proposal affects us in other ways and Oregon legislators need to address this to hold us harmless as a clean energy supplier.
Specifically, the proposal doesn’t treat co-ops like IOUs when it comes to how we manage our green energy. That’s not fair. The IOUs would be allowed to manage their renewable energy credits (RECs) to meet their needs, but we would not have that freedom. We should be able to use our RECs as freely as the IOUs.
Overhauling the Oregon Department of Energy
A committee of legislators will meet in 2016 to try to get at the root causes for the multiple failures at Oregon’s Department of Energy (ODOE). That committee is co-chaired by Lane County’s own state Senator Lee Beyer and Representative Paul Holvey, and includes Lane County legislator Senator Chris Edwards. Both the Oregon Senate President and Speaker of the House asked the special committee to examine: “Is it the structure? Is it the purpose? Is it the personnel? Is it time for the Department of Energy to go away?” Recommendations will be proposed to the 2017 Legislature.
Lane Electric pays ODOE an annual Energy Supplier Assessment and last year it shot up 47% without notice. Some utilities, including EWEB, sued ODOE calling this payment an unconstitutional tax, in part because much of what ODOE does serves the general public, not a specific utility’s needs. Any overhaul of ODOE needs to include a clear justification of what Lane Electric receives for that annual ODOE payment because currently it’s unclear. What Oregon needs is a cohesive energy plan put into practice by a state agency—whether a department, division, or office of energy—that can be held accountable.
You have a role to play on these energy issues. A co-op is, at its heart, a grassroots organization created by the community it serves. Lane Electric is no different and we need your support when we engage our legislators on issues like those above. Please help make Lane Electric’s voice heard by policymakers by joining our grassroots network. You can do so by going to www.oreca-action.org and click on the yellow “Register” link in the upper right corner. Why? Because if you’re not sitting at the table on these issues, you’re probably on the menu.