Oregon to Phase Out Coal, Increase Renewables


The march toward a future full of renewable energy continues on – and this time, Oregon is the state that will benefit.

Last month, Governor Kate Brown signed into law a bill that would double Oregon’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) while taking the dramatic step of cutting out coal completely.

The measure will take Oregon’s renewable consumption from 25% of all energy consumed by 2015 to 50% by 2040. Additionally, electric utilities will be required to completely cut coal out of their electricity allocation by the beginning of 2030 – only 14 years away.

There are other provisions in the bill as well that promote small-scale energy production. For example, at least 8% of the state’s aggregate electricity capacity that is sold to 25,000 or more consumers must come from either small-scale renewable energy producers (no more than 20 MW of capacity) or from biomass facilities that also produce thermal energy.

Any producer in this second category can also receive renewable energy certificates for the thermal energy.

According to Gov. Brown, “Oregon will be less reliant on fossil fuels and shift our focus to clean energy. I’m proud to sign a bill that moves Oregon forward, together with the shared values of current and future generations.”

Oregon already produces 73% of its net electricity from renewable energy resources.

Biomass Across the County

Oregon already is one of the nation’s leaders in biomass energy, even though the industry has fallen on hard times lately thanks to idled plants and higher prices compared to some conventional resources. But the new bill should help spur biomass development and cement Oregon’s place as an American biomass leader.

Elsewhere, the picture is less clear. While electricity produced by biomass did increase by 5.7% from 2013 to 2014, the number of states that use biomass in any capacity is low. Biomass has become a go-to alternative fuel source in the Pacific Northwest, New England, and in the Midwest. There is plenty of potential for biomass in the Southeast and Great Plains states, but that potential has so far been unrealized for the most part.

One positive note: from 2002 to 2013, biomass consumption grew by over 60%. That type of growth foretells good things for the industry moving forward as more states like Oregon turn to biomass as a viable alternative. Whenever these states follow Oregon in increasing their renewables portfolio, biomass will invariably have a seat at the table.