Celebrating the launch of the “Oregon Clean Grid Collaborative”

Authors: Nora Apter, Senior Program Director for Climate, OEC; Nicole Hughes, Executive Director, Renewable Northwest

Renewable Northwest Executive Director, Nicole Hughes, and OEC Senior Program Director for Climate, Nora Apter, welcome 20 representatives from 15 advocacy organizations to the Oregon Clean Grid Collaborative kick-off.

Renewable Northwest Executive Director, Nicole Hughes, and OEC Senior Program Director for Climate, Nora Apter, welcome 20 representatives from 15 advocacy organizations to the Oregon Clean Grid Collaborative kick-off.

Lack of a regional market and lack of transmission have been cited as two of the most pressing challenges to achieving state clean energy mandates. Making sure grid planning, governance, markets, and investments are aligned to achieve 100% clean energy is all the more important as we continue to pursue policies that accelerate the electrification of our transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors—all of which will depend on a power grid strong enough to meet increasing demand. Oregon clean energy, environmental justice, and labor advocates recently came together for the launch of the “Oregon Clean Grid Collaborative.” Over the coming months, these partners will participate in shared education, capacity-building, and campaign planning with the goal of ensuring that energy market and regional transmission planning processes deliver meaningful benefits for Oregon customers, communities, and workers.

Recognizing the urgent need to tackle climate pollution and improve community resilience, Oregon advocates have made great progress towards decarbonizing our state’s electric grid. Thanks to the leadership of a broad environmental justice-led coalition, Oregon’s electricity grid is now on a path to transition to 100% clean, non-emitting sources over the next two decades. 

If done right, the transition to a clean electricity grid will:

  • Serve as the clean energy backbone to power our buildings, transportation, and industries. 
  • Revitalize local economies and create union-wage jobs in the clean energy sector. 
  • Improve health and affordability for communities across the state by reducing harmful climate and air pollution, and providing cost-savings for Oregon families. 

However, in order to realize these benefits, we must tackle pressing barriers head-on.  

Barriers to overcome

Analysis shows that a fully integrated regional grid will be key to meeting the mandates established by Oregon’s 100% clean electricity law. Making sure grid planning, governance, markets, and investments are aligned to achieve 100% clean energy is all the more important as we continue to pursue policies that accelerate the electrification of our transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors—all of which will depend on a power grid strong enough to meet increasing demand. Two of the most pressing challenges to achieving state clean energy mandates have been identified as:

  • Lack of transmission
  • Lack of a regional market 

Conversations are progressing rapidly around the development of one or more regional markets in the West: the details around governance are being negotiated, the terms of the tariffs are being drafted, and the priorities of participants are being considered. Unfortunately, the utilities are dominating the process and–if left unchecked–the resulting energy market will be another regulated entity narrowly focused on prioritizing utility returns and shareholder profits. We cannot afford to let that happen. 

Together, we can deliver meaningful benefits for Oregon

Clean energy, environmental justice, and labor advocates in Oregon have proven time and time again the magnitude of our shared power and collective influence when we work in partnership. And it will be up to us to steer regional market conversations in a different direction to ensure the creation of an energy market that maximizes the power of the grid, equitably and affordably distributes energy resources and supports meaningful job creation in Oregon and the region. But the window of opportunity won’t last forever. 

The sooner we can work together to identify our shared values, priorities, and outcomes through regional grid modernization and governance, the better positioned we will be to advocate and deliver benefits for Oregon. Unfortunately, few Oregon advocates have had the opportunity to develop technical and historical knowledge of how the Northwest’s current electricity system came to be, how it operates, and how it needs to evolve to become fully decarbonized. Likewise, these stakeholders currently lack representation in key decision-making venues where regional market development is underway.

Announcing the launch of the Oregon Clean Grid Collaborative

Recognizing the urgent need to address existing gaps in advocacy capacity and engagement, OEC and Renewable Northwest have teamed up to launch a multi-part grid decarbonization campaign. The goal of the Oregon Clean Grid Collaborative is simple: Support Oregon-based advocates in building knowledge and capacity to engage in and influence regional market governance and development forums.

In a crowded classroom, Kate Griffith, Director at Gridworks, facilitates an icebreaker. Gridworks mission is to convene, educate and empower stakeholders to decarbonize electricity grids.

Kate Griffith, Director at Gridworks, facilitates an icebreaker. Gridworks mission is to convene, educate and empower stakeholders to decarbonize electricity grids.

On August 24th, OEC, Renewable Northwest, and more than a dozen other clean energy, labor, environmental justice, community-based, and ratepayer advocate partners came together for an Oregon Clean Grid Collaborative kickoff meeting. In the coming months, we will dedicate time to expanding our collective understanding of regional grid governance and development forums, including key issues, players, timelines, and decision-making venues at play. We will dig into the Northwest electricity system, implications of regional market evolution, transmission issues, and the interplay with our ongoing state-level work to achieve our state energy mandates, improve energy affordability and reliability, and support job creation here in Oregon. And we’ll learn about the key players, political venues, and decision points that we’ll need to secure outcomes that benefit Oregon for today and the future.

By building our baseline understanding of these issues, Oregon advocates will be better positioned to answer questions like:

  • How can markets help achieve Oregon’s 100% clean electricity goals? What are the key attributes of a successful energy market that should be prioritized?
  • How should regional markets be governed? Who gets a decision-making seat at the table? What role do state regulators play in preserving authority over state energy issues? 
  • What states should be in the market with Oregon? What are the aligned principles Oregon shares with neighboring states that should be preserved and elevated in market development? 
  • How can Oregon ensure regional market benefits are realized by customers equitably? How can we ensure in-state job creation and workforce development opportunities as a result of regional market operation? How do we measure success? 

Exploring these questions will enable us to work together to engage in energy market and regional transmission planning processes and effectively advocate for outcomes that benefit Oregon customers and support the implementation of Oregon’s clean energy mandates. 

By expanding our collective understanding of these issues, we will be better positioned to engage and influence regional governance and development forums to ensure the creation of an energy market that maximizes the power of the grid, equitably and affordably distributes clean energy resources, and supports meaningful job creation in the region. 

You can expect to hear updates from the Oregon Clean Grid Collaborative partners in the coming months as this work unfolds. 

 

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