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, geothermal 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.