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Oregon Finds Switching From Coal to Renewable Energy Is a Bargain

Excerpt:

Oregon may have a reputation for rainy weather, but the outlook for the renewable energy there is definitely sunny.

Earlier this year the state passed legislation that requires utilities to stop generating electricity from coal by 2030. At the time, one of Oregon’s two main energy utilities, Pacific Power, predicted that the switch to renewables would come with a fairly high cost, hitting customers with a rate increase of 0.8 percent per year through 2030. That’s a cumulative increase of about 12 percent over the next 14 years.

Since then, however, things have changed. After the legislation passed, Pacific Power put out a request for bids for renewable energy projects, and developers came back with prices much lower than expected.

How low? Try 0.1 percent through the year 2028. That’s not per year, like the previous estimate. It’s the projected rate increase for the entire time period.

That amounts to a 10-cent rate increase for every current $100 in electricity costs.

What happened? “When we did our initial analysis of this, we didn’t have the latest prices from the markets,” said Pacific Power spokesman Ry Schwark. “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, he said.

Schwark said the company is preparing contracts with 12 new renewable energy projects—including 11 big solar farms and one wind array—that will come online over the next year and a half. Ten of those sites are in Oregon. (Pacific Power also does business in Washington state and California, although most of its customers are in rural Oregon.)

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