Oregon governor signs bill to expand RPS, phase out coal

By Erin Voegele | March 15, 2016

On March 11, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation that doubles the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) while eliminating coal from Oregon’s energy sources. The measure also provides incentives for energy efficiency, small- and community-scale renewable energy projects, and some existing biomass energy plants.

"Knowing how important it is to Oregonians to act on climate change, a wide range of stakeholders came to the table around Oregonians' investments in coal and renewable energy," Brown said. "Working together, they found a path to best equip our state with the energy resource mix of the future. Now, Oregon will be less reliant on fossil fuels and shift our focus to clean energy. I'm proud to sign a bill that moves Oregon forward, together with the shared values of current and future generations." 

The bill, S.B. 1547, received final approval in the state Senate March 2. The measure passed in the House March 1.  

The new law expands Oregon’s RPS program from a previous requirement of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 to 50 percent renewable energy by 2040. In addition, the law requires electric utilities to eliminate coal-fired resources from their electricity allocation by January 2030.

The new law maintains the requirement that renewable electricity may only be used to comply with the RPS if it is generated by a facility that became operational on or after Jan. 1, 1995, with the exception of biomass plants. Electricity from biomass facilities fired with municipal solid waste or wood that became operational before Jan. 1, 1995, but meet certain requirements of the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, may also be used to comply with the RPS.

The law also includes a requirement that at least 8 percent of the aggregate electricity capacity of all electric companies that sell electricity to 25,000 or more retail consumers must be composed of electricity generated by either small-scale renewable energy projects of 20 MW or less, or biomass facilities that also generate thermal energy for a secondary purpose.

In addition, the law includes a provision that states if a facility using biomass to generate electricity also generates thermal energy for a secondary purpose, the Oregon Department of Energy will issue renewable energy certificates (RECs) for the resulting thermal energy. The law indicates 3.412 million Btus will be equivalent to 1 MW for the purpose of REC generation.