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Oregon Releases 10-Year Energy Plan, Emphasizing Conservation, Renewables, Infrastructure Investment, and Alternative Fuels

December 19, 2012 posted by Eric Christensen

On December 17, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber released Oregon's "10-Year Energy Action Plan," which sets out a long-term framework for Oregon's energy policy. While not binding, the Plan is likely to catalyze action by both the Oregon legislature and Oregon state agencies to carry out the plan's recommendations. Renewable energy producers, utilities, and others in the energy industry will be particularly interested in recommendations that would change Oregon's Energy Facility Siting process, restructuring financing for renewable energy projects, and increase funding for energy-related research and innovation. The plan is built around three core objectives: (1) to meet 100% of Oregon's electric load growth through energy conservation and efficiency measures; (2) to remove financial and regulatory barriers to development of the infrastructure needed to encourage renewables; and, (3) to transition Oregon's vehicle fleet to electricity or alternative fuels. Many of the specific recommendations to carry out these objectives should be of great interest to those working in the energy industry. For example, the Report advocates a number of changes to the laws governing Oregon's Energy Facility Siting Council, which exercises authority for siting larger electric generation and transmission projects, gas pipelines, and other energy-related facilities. The changes are aimed at easing the regulatory constraints encountered by developers of renewable energy infrastructure. Among many recommended measures, the Plan advocates a "landscape level" planning tool intended to identify preferred sites and potential pitfalls at a high level, so that the permitting process can avoid becoming bogged down in site-specific disputes about project impacts and mitigation measures. Similarly, the Report advocates use of a "strong project officer" who would lead an "interdisciplinary team" made up of officials from each of the involved permitting agencies and tribes, with the aim of focusing input from all involved agencies and tribes at a single point. The report also advocates aligning local standards with EFSC standards and changes to EFSC's jurisdictional thresholds to prevent "forum shopping" by developers who split a single project into smaller sub-projects that do not qualify for EFSC review. For transmission infrastructure, the report advocates changes to cost recovery rules to allow for "right-sizing" of transmission construction to allow for future load growth. The Energy Action Plan calls for a wide variety of other energy-related actions, ranging from conversion of transportation fleets to electric or natural gas engines to increased investment in energy-related research and public-private partnerships. If you have any questions about the Oregon Energy Action Plan or other matters related to the utility industry, energy innovation, conservation, or project development, please contact a member of GTH's Energy, Telecommunications and Utilities practice group. We have years of experience in the Northwest's energy industry, complex administrative matters, project licensing, finance, construction, and related fields.