Oregon Passes Law to Phase Out Coal by 2030, Increase Reliance on Renewables

UPDATED 3.14.2016 to reflect Governor Kate Brown’s signing of the bill

In an historic move, last Wednesday, March 2, 2016, the Oregon Senate Oregon has passed enacted the Clean Energy and Coal Transition Act, also known as SB 1547, directing retail distribution utilities within the state to eliminate reliance on coal-fired generation by 2030.  While SB 1547 is still awaiting Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s signature before it becomes law, a press release from the Oregon Legislature describes the bill as a “priority” for the Governor.

Once finalized, SB 1547 will make Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed the bill into law on March 10, 2016, making Oregon the first state in the U.S. to require the elimination of coal-fired power by statute.  Back in January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his intent to phase out coal in the Empire State by 2020, but the New York legislature has yet to take any action toward that goal.  In a statement, Governor Brown applauded the bill, noting, “[n]ow, 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.”

SB 1547 also paves the way for a community solar program in the state and calls on retail electric utilities to increase their reliance on renewable energy.  The bill requires its largest utilities to meet 50% of electricity demand with renewables by 2040, more than double the 20% requirement under Oregon’s current renewable portfolio standard (RPS).  The reforms provide a “safety valve” excusing non-compliance with the new RPS requirements where doing so would compromise electric reliability.

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