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Energy plan puts Oregon first

Homegrown, Oregon-produced fruits and vegetables are unparalleled in quality and they’re part of the foundation of the Oregon economy. It’s that same “grown in Oregon” value that is expressed in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s 10-Year Energy Action Plan recently published in draft for public comment. This plan takes a commonsense approach to charting the state’s energy future and its impact on Oregon’s economy, environment and quality of life.

BY: Phil Welker and John Morris

StatesmanJournal.com
 
 
Homegrown, Oregon-produced fruits and vegetables are unparalleled in quality and they’re part of the foundation of the Oregon economy.

It’s that same “grown in Oregon” value that is expressed in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s 10-Year Energy Action Plan recently published in draft for public comment. This plan takes a commonsense approach to charting the state’s energy future and its impact on Oregon’s economy, environment and quality of life.

The plan builds on three core strategies. The first is energy efficiency. What could make more sense? Oregon already boasts an impressive record of accomplishment in energy efficiency, ranking third nationally in one independent assessment of the states. The governor’s plan doesn’t rest on these accomplishments. It pushes the state to do more of good thing, achieving 100 percent of new electric load growth through energy efficiency.

Is this realistic? Most certainly, through the continued good work of the Energy Trust of Oregon, consumer-owned utilities and the innovation of several Oregon companies working to make Oregon homes, businesses and industries more efficient and more competitive in a global economy.

Does it make sense? More than ever. Oregon’s previous energy efficiency success has saved us millions on our energy bills and put those dollars into the local economy. A great deal of our energy infrastructure now needs to be modernized, along with much of the non-energy infrastructure in the state. It would be the height of folly to make needed modernization investments without taking advantage of the increased efficiency they can yield. We have laid a strong foundation with efficiency, and we should build our future upon it.

The second core strategy in the governor’s plan addresses the need to remove financial and regulatory barriers to the creation of a clean energy infrastructure. Our current infrastructure — namely natural gas, electricity and water — must be improved. Oregon cannot meet the needs of a 21st century economy with it imperiled.

To create a clean energy economy in the state, we also need clean energy development: wind, solar, biomass, tidal. Oregon’s future energy infrastructure will efficiently meet new growth while replacing old carbon-producing plants with smaller low-carbon choices that support clean energy resources.

It will take capital investment, admittedly a challenge in difficult economic times. The plan recognizes the challenge and calls for a better regulatory climate for these investments as well as better and more innovative tools for leveraging private capital with the public commitment to make these investments.

The plan’s third strategy addresses the need to accelerate transition to a more efficient and cleaner transportation system. Progress toward the conversion to alternative-fuel vehicles will not only continue Oregon’s national leadership in this area, but continue to produce results that improve air quality and public health and reduce congestion.

This should include building on the success of Oregon’s land-use system, which has helped make our metro areas compact and transportation-efficient, by ensuring that the existing transportation infrastructure is well-used and modernized where needed (ports, roads, bridges).

Today, many Oregon families will sit down to a table with some of the world’s finest foods, locally grown. Gov. Kitzhaber’s energy plan envisions a future with those same qualities. Energy that is clean and affordable can benefit us and Oregon’s economy. And having it “grown in Oregon” will be something we can all take pride in.

Phil Welker of Lake Oswego is executive director of PECI, a Portland-based non-profit dedicated to providing a range of energy services from program design and implementation to workforce development and training. He serves on the board of directors of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council and can be reached at pwelker@peci.org.

John Morris of Portland is director of client services and business development at Fluid Market Strategies, an Oregon company that provides customized management services across many energy efficiency sectors. He also serves on the board of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council and can be reached at jmorris@fluidms.com.

 
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