Finding an energy game plan for Oregon
It's time for Oregon to embrace the many unknowns -- technological and economic as well as political -- of its uncertain energy future. Oregon's security, comfort and so many family-wage jobs will depend on it.
It's not as if there's a minute for Oregon to catch its breath following the call to overhaul public education and health care. No, instead it's time to immediately focus on an equally ambitious plan by Gov. John Kitzhaberto reconfigure the way this state goes about producing, regulating and using energy.
While it sounds academic, and enough fever charts have been drawn to paper the Capitol's walls, the effort couldn't reach more deeply into everyday life. That's because Oregon needs to find a way to keep the lights on without polluting and be able to pay for it down the road -- no small task. And it needs a coordinated and comprehensive energy game plan to get there.
It's true the state has launched multiple efficiency programs in recent years and shown an open-arms recruitment of wind farms and solar companies through generous tax incentives. But conservation lags, regulatory confusion has been a strain for energy developers and policy-setters alike, and the fortunes of wind and solar companies have flattened out. Meanwhile C02-emitting coal- and gas-fired plants account for half the electricity produced in a state that otherwise celebrates clean hydroelectric power.
Oregon has been lucky. But the tab is arriving: On-and-off energy sources such as wind test the electricity transmission system. Ratepayers shoulder increasing costs of system upgrades as well as retrofits to power plants spewing too many greenhouse cases. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal, meanwhile, still only deliver a sliver of the power needed to cut Oregon's dependence on fossil fuels and emission of greenhouse gases. Throughout, nobody can defensibly say costs to Oregon ratepayers won't continue to rise.
The governor's plan -- drawn from months of work by groups invited to think boldly -- will be released as a draft in the next few weeks. It must become the centerpiece of discussion by policymakers, businesses and citizens statewide.