Environment

Oregon’s push to eliminate coal powered energy

By  | 
air polluting factory chimneys

Image: Balu/Shutterstock

As the numbers become clearer, it appears that renewable energy is looking more appealing to Oregon utility companies. In early 2016, the notoriously rainy state passed legislation that mandates an end to coal-powered energy by 2030. And energy companies like Pacific Power weren’t happy.

Just after the legislation was passed, Pacific Power, one of Oregon’s main utilities suppliers, released unappealing data pointing to the high cost of clean energy. Pacific Power’s numbers predict a .8% increase in energy prices per year, culminating in a 12% total rise in cost by 2030.

Despite the daunting predictions, Pacific Power began taking bids for energy projects and the results were surprising. The developers came in with incredibly competitive rates, meaning the price of renewable energy was much cheaper than originally thought. In fact, the new numbers are astonishingly low.

Ry Schwark, spokesman for Pacific Power, explained the discrepancy saying, “When we did our initial analysis of this, we didn’t have the latest prices from the markets. We went out in the market and found that there is such an amount of renewable energy coming online in the next couple of years that we were basically able to move our coal-free compliance date up two years to 2028 without much of a rate impact on consumers.”

So what’s that impact going to look like on paper? Well, it’ll be hardly noticeable. The current projected rate of increase is hovering at .1% for the entire timeline through 2028. Mind you, that’s not per month or year. Oregon energy consumers should only expect to pay 10 cents more per $100 in energy costs, which is negligible at best.

The Oregon experiment proves that renewable energy is rapidly dropping in price. Soon, large scale operations will be financially viable for even bigger operations.

According to Alex Hobson, spokeswoman for the D.C.-based Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost of renewable energy is lower than ever. She noted, “We’ve seen reported power purchase agreement prices for utilities to buy power from new utility-scale solar projects on the order of $40 to $50 per megawatt hour, which is competitive with electricity generated from existing coal and natural gas plants.”

Pacific Power hasn’t released the financial breakdown of their recent renewable energy acquisitions, but with such low projected consumer rates, it’s surely competitive with coal and natural gas prices. Hobson is optimistic, too. She added, “At these prices, and as utilities grow more comfortable with the operating characteristics of solar plants, solar will make up an increasingly large share of America’s energy portfolio.” And as observed in Oregon, the switch to solar is already happening.

What’s next on the agenda for Oregon’s pioneer towards coal-free energy? Pacific Power will keep buying up clean energy products as prices continue to fall.

Mandy Burkholder is a travel, adventure, and outdoor writer who honed her craft in the foothills of the La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado. After a stint in the Swiss Alps, she now resides in Tennessee. Follow her on twitter — @mandyburkhold3r