Oregon is a state with good solar resources, with most of the state getting an average of more than 5 kilowatt hours (kWh) of sunlight per square meter a day. Only the northwestern area of the state gets less, with about 4 kWh of sunlight per square meter a day. The state and its utilities are pushing to make its homes and buildings more efficient and self-powered through a veritable plethora of incentives, including tax breaks, rebates, performance-based incentives, low-interest rate loans and more.
Oregon’s energy market is dominated by large hydroelectric power plants. In fact, the state produces nearly two-thirds of its energy from dams on rivers, with its four largest power plants on the Columbia River. But the state also has bountiful natural renewable resources. The DOE’s Energy Information Administration said that the state already generates roughly 4 percent of the nation’s wind power and has considerably more wind power potential and the potential to generate as much as 2.2 gigawatts of geothermal power.
The state also has one of the nation’s stronger renewable portfolio standards, which requires the state’s utilities to produce or purchase at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable resources, like solar, wind, goethermal or tidal, by 2025. The renewable portfolio standard covers all 39 utilities to varying degrees. By 2025, the state’s largest utilities must source 25 percent of their power from renewable sources. In addition, the largest utilities—those with more than 3 percent of the state’s electricity load—must source 5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2011, 15 percent by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020.
Only three states, California, Colorado, and Hawaii, have higher renewable energy requirements. Renewable-energy-portfolio standards are a powerful tool that states are using to bring more renewable power generation into their states. This means that utilities are being pushed into developing local renewable resources and in many cases, as in Oregon’s, they will offer incentives in addition to those offered by the state and federal government.
|Amount||Maximum for residences capped at $20,000. Price per watt varies for each utility company|
|Required Documentation||Contractors complete the paperwork|
|Official Web Site||http://energytrust.org/residential/incentives/solar-electric/SolarElectric/|
The Energy Trust of Oregon offers a rebate program to customers of Pacific Power and PGE for installing photovoltaic (PV) on their homes and businesses through the trust’s Solar Electric Buy-Down Program. The program was launched in May 2003. The program offers people installing PV up-front payments to help offset the costs of installing solar on their homes and buildings. Incentives are highest for systems up to 30 kilowatts (kW) in size—most homes need a system no larger than 5 kW—and step downward for systems up to 200 kW in size.
Customers of Pacific Power that want to install and own a system qualify for rebates of $1.50 per DC watt installed. Customers of PGE that want to install PV qualify for rebates of $1.75 per DC watt. Payments are capped at $20,000 per site.
Systems installed and owned by a third party on a home qualify for rebates of $1.00 per DC watt installed from Pacific Power or $1.25 per DC watt installed from PGE. PGE is capped at $10,000 and Pacific Power is capped at $5,000 per third-party installation.
To be eligible, the system must be installed by a contractor in Energy Trust’s Trade Ally Network. The contractor chosen by the customer advises them on the proper site and the system’s needs. The contractor also completes the necessary paperwork for the customer’s PV system, so they can receive the rebate. The contractor estimates what the customer’s PV system will produce, the installation date, and what the cost of the system will be for the customer after the rebate is applied. Upon receiving the Energy Trust’s approval, the contractor is sent the rebate and all funds are deducted from the system’s final cost.
Corporate Tax Credit
Green Building Incentive
Personal Tax Credit
Private Grant Program
Property Tax Exemption
State Grant Program
State Loan Program
State Rebate Program
Utility Grant Program
Utility Loan Program
Utility Rebate Program
Rules, Regulations & Policies
Appliance/Equipment Efficiency Standards
Building Energy Code
Energy Standards for Public Buildings
Green Power Purchasing/Aggregation
Mandatory Utility Green Power Option
Public Benefits Fund
Renewables Portfolio Standard
Solar Access Law/Guideline
Solar and Wind Access Law
Solar/Wind Permitting Standards
Related Programs & Initiatives
The U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFDC) provides a wide range of information and resources to enable the use of alternative fuels and other petroleum-reduction options, such as advanced vehicles, fuel blends, idle reduction and fuel economy. The AFDC site offers a database of state and federal laws and incentives related to alternative fuels and vehicles, air quality, fuel efficiency, and other transportation-related topics.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Green Power Network provides news and information on green power markets and activities, including opportunities to buy green power. This site provides state-by-state information on green power marketing and utility green power programs. In addition, the site lists marketers of renewable energy credits (RECs), also known as green tags or renewable energy certificates, which represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy-efficient. Through this program, weatherization service providers install energy-efficiency measures in the homes of qualifying homeowners free of charge. The WAP program web site offers a state-by-state map of opportunities, projects and activities.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America site provides state-by-state information on wind projects and activities, including wind working groups, validated wind maps, anemometer loan programs, small wind guides, state-specific news, wind for schools, workshops and web casts.
|Program Type||State Loan Program|
|Technologies||Photovolaics, Solar Hot Water Heating, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Process Heat, other renewables and energy-efficiency projects.|
|Amount||Typically $20,000 - $20 million|
|Required Documentation||Loan application and fees|
|Official Web Site||http://egov.oregon.gov/ENERGY/LOANS/selphm.shtml|
Oregon created its Small-Scale Energy Loan Program (SELP)—another great name—in 1981. Through the program, individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and governmental entities may apply for low-interest rate loans to finance solar installation, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Loan amounts usually range from $20,000 to $20 million. The loans have an interest rate of 6 percent to 7.5 percent as of September 2010. And the repayment period for the loans is between five and 15 years.
The loans carry $500 in application fees for loans up to $25,000 and the fees are stepped to as much as $1,100 for a loan of up to $100,000. Loans larger than that carry additional fees. Some of the fees are due up front, with the rest due at closing time.
The Oregon Department of Energy administers SELP and its bond-financed program to fund small-scale, local energy projects. The bonds are offered periodically and may be issued to accommodate a particularly large loan request.
|Program Type||Feed-in Tariff (Performance-Based Incentive)|
|Amount||Payments between $0.65 per kW hour and $0.55 per kWh produced|
|Required Documentation||Contract with utility|
|Official Web Site||http://energytrust.org/library/resources/FIT_FAQ.pdf|
The Oregon Pilot Solar Volumetric Incentive Rates & Payments Program—the name just rolls off the tongue—is a feed-in tariff program that customers of the state’s three investor-owned utilities—PGE, Portland Power, and Idaho Power—are eligible to enroll in. The program pays customers for generating PV power. Under the first-come, first-serve program, customers enter into a 15-year contract with their utility to purchase all the power generated by their PV system at a rate set when they sign the contract. If the person or business moves during that period, the subsequent building owner gets any payments for energy produced.
The program will accept a total of 25 MWs of distributed generation, divided up among the affected utilities. Under the program, Idaho Power will add 400 kWs of residential PV, Pacific Power will add 9.8 MWs and PGE will add 14.9 MWs. The additional PV power is being added at a rate of 6.25 MWs per year. The largest installations eligible to receive the incentive are 500 kW PV systems. Of the 25 MW cap, 20 MWs are reserved for systems under 100 kW in size. Of that, 12 MWs are reserved for residential solar installations and 8 MWs for commercial.
The amount paid for the feed-in tariff depends on geographic location and system size, with systems up to 100 kW in size receiving the highest incentives. Here are the incentive levels for customers with smaller PV systems, as of September 2010:
• $0.65 per kWh generated for Pacific Power and PGE customers in the counties of Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Washington, and Yamhill.
• $0.60 per kWh generated for Pacific Power and PGE customers in the counties of Coos, Douglas, and Hood River and Pacific Power customers in the counties of Gilliam, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Wallowa, and Wasco.
• $0.55 per kWh generated for Idaho Power and Pacific Power customers in the counties of Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson, Lake, Malheur, and Harney.
Systems up to 100 kW are paid out under a net-metering-like portion of the program. However, unlike most net-metering programs, system-owners are paid for all energy generated by the system—including that used by the customer onsite. To keep enrolled customers from using excess energy that otherwise would go to the grid—creating a larger payment to the system owner—systems are sized to meet average electric consumption of similar-sized buildings or industries. Under the program, PV-system owners still pay the utility for the power they use, but then are compensated at the rates listed above.
To apply for the program, Oregonians must check with their utility prior to installing the system to make sure they’re still eligible to sign up. The customer must have the system installed by a contractor in the Energy Trust’s Trade Ally Network. A second meter will be installed to measure the generation of the PV array. And the system must be installed within a year of applying for the incentive program.