Unlocking the Power of the Grid

Last July, OEC worked with our allies to persuade the Oregon Legislature to adopt 100% Clean Energy for All, which will transition Oregon’s electricity supply away from fossil fuels no later than 2040, among the fastest such transitions in the nation. Creating more wind, solar, and wave energy is one thing. Ensuring it gets to consumers is another. When the power is out, much of our lives – and our economy – comes to a standstill. Our March 15 Business and Environment Forum focused on new ways in which clean energy can be available reliably, even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

Current State of the State

Oregon is currently a net electricity importer, relying on California and Washington to help meet the needs of our growing population. Reliably balancing supply and demand here in Oregon will require looking even further afield, to wind from Wyoming and sun from the Southwest, and investing in power generation in local communities in Oregon

Our current “grid” of transmission lines doesn’t reach as far as it needs to and utilities in Oregon aren’t really coordinating planning with those in Arizona or Colorado, for example. Doing so will require breaking through both bureaucratic barriers and major new investment in a “West-wide grid” of new transmission lines.

However, importing energy over long distances is inherently inefficient. And, in economic terms it means we are exporting Oregon consumer dollars to neighboring states in order to keep our lights on.

Whats on the Horizon

Investing in new and more “local” renewable power in-state, including further growth in solar and wind and new offshore wind and wave energy generation, promises a more self-sufficient and resilient future for Oregon. Community solar systems, new local “micro-grids” and emerging battery storage technology can help augment a West-wide grid, while providing greater community resiliency. Each region in Oregon has its own natural resources that can generate power for its people, be it solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, or hydropower. Strategically building out clean energy infrastructure means analyzing location and not assuming a one-size-fits-all model.

It’s imperative that these regional and community initiatives bring broad stakeholders to the table, particularly from the people most affected by changes to the grid. This means not only investing in technology, but also people through job training programs, community resiliency efforts, and work to decarbonize homes and provide efficient heating and cooling systems. Consumers can also help by participating in programs that shift their energy use to “off-peak” hours.

The transition to 100% clean energy in Oregon is beneficial in a myriad of ways including reducing climate pollution to avoid the worst of climate catastrophes, reducing costs for people across Oregon as fuel prices rise, increasing the actual efficiency of the machines we use everyday, and building out a more resilient and sustainable grid for all of Oregon.

Thank you

Many thanks to our Forum sponsors (see below) and to our panelists for sharing their knowledge and insights: Eileen Quigley of the Clean Energy Transition Institute; Jaimes Valdez of the Portland Clean Energy Fund, and Shannon Souza of Sol Coast Design and Consulting. 

If you’d like to view the webinar yourself, a video recording can be found here.

 

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