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Oregon's Renewable Resource Programs
Policies, Rules and Regulations
System Benefits Charge (ORS 757.612)
For 10 years beginning March 2002, Portland General Electric (PGE) and Pacific Power customers pay a 3 percent charge on their monthly bills for conservation and renewable resource programs under Oregon's electric industry restructuring law. About 17 percent of the funds, estimated at $10 million to $13 million per year, are for projects that generate electricity from renewable resources.
The Energy Trust of Oregon administers the funds. Its goal for renewable resources is that they supply 10 percent of the state's electricity needs by 2012, an eight-fold increase. To achieve that goal, at least 450 average megawatts of power from new renewable resources is needed - enough to meet more than half of the projected growth in state electricity use over the next decade.
Projects already underway include a 41-megawatt wind plant, a 4.1-megawatt biogas generator at a dairy, an anemometer loan program for measuring wind resources, rebates and quality assurance for solar electric systems, a hydroelectric system to offset power use at a municipal water facility, and a microturbine demonstration project at a wastewater treatment plant.
Eligible large customers can use part of their system benefits charge, including the portion for renewable resources, for their own investments. The Oregon Department of Energy certifies the projects and tracks expenditures.

Utility Green Power Options (ORS 757.603(2))
Oregon's electric industry restructuring law requires that residential and small business customers of PGE and Pacific Power have at least one power option with significant new renewable resources. Since March 2002, customers have had three renewable resource options to choose from. By year-end 2002, more than 33,000 customers were supporting renewable resources through these programs.
One option provides energy from renewable resources each month in 100 kilowatt-hour blocks. PGE's program is called "Clean Wind"; Pacific Power's program is "Blue Sky." These programs also are available to large customers. The other two options, "Renewable Usage" and "Habitat," supply 100 percent of the customer's electricity use. "Habitat" includes a contribution for restoring salmon habitat. Green Mountain Energy Co. is currently providing green tags and marketing services for these options.
Consumer-owned utilities in the state also offer green power options. They include Eugene Water and Electric Board's Windpower option, the city of Ashland's Solar Pioneer Program, and power generated from landfill gas offered by member utilities of the Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative. Salem Electric and Emerald PUD buy wind power on behalf of all customers from the Bonneville Power Administration.

Power Source Disclosure (ORS 757.659(3))
Oregon's restructuring law requires PGE, Pacific Power and alternative electricity suppliers serving their customers to disclose their power sources and environmental impacts to help customers make informed choices. The Oregon Public Utility Commission prescribes the disclosure format. Nonresidential customers get the information with every bill; residential customers receive information quarterly. Pollutants covered include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and spent nuclear fuel.

Utility Integrated Resource Plans
Both PacifiCorp and PGE plan to acquire significant new generation resources under the integrated resource plans they recently filed with the Oregon Public Utility Commission. PacifiCorp's plan calls for 1,400 megawatts of wind power over 10 years. PGE will evaluate the cost and price volatility of renewable resource vs. natural gas facilities in its bidding process for new resources.

Siting of Renewable Energy Facilities
Developers of  wind, geothermal and solar energy facilities are not subject to the state-level energy facility permitting process if the "average electric generating capacity" of the proposed facility is less than 35 megawatts. By statute, an "average electric generating capacity" of  35 megawatts is equal to 105 megawatts of peak capacity for wind or solar facilities and 38.85 megawatts of peak capacity for geothermal facilities.
Developers of wind facilities of less than 35 megawatts of average electric generating capacity may choose to use the local siting process or the consolidated state process (ORS 469. 320(9)). For wind facilities larger than 35 megawatts of average electric generating capacity, or when a developer of a smaller facilty chooses to use the state process, siting is expedited for proposed facilities less than 300 megawatts (peak capacity).

Net Metering (ORS 757.300)
Oregon's net metering law applies to solar, wind, hydroelectric and fuel cell systems generating 25 kilowatts or less. Systems must meet national standards for safety and performance. All customer classes are eligible. Limits may be placed on net-metered systems after their installed capacity is one-half of 1 percent of the utility's single-hour peak load. The customer receives a generation credit automatically through the meter at the utility's retail rate for energy and delivery (unless the utility installs a second meter to measure how much power the customer produces). The utilities credit customers monthly at their avoided energy cost for any excess generation.

Biennial Energy Plan (ORS 469.060)
The Department of Energy prepares a plan every two years that identifies trends in energy supply, demand, prices, conservation, renewable resources and nuclear safety; explains the key energy issues facing Oregon; and sets out a two-year action plan to clean up nuclear waste and ensure the state has an adequate supply of reliable and affordable energy through conservation and development of clean resources.

Financial Incentives
Residential Energy Tax Credit (ORS 316.116)
Homeowners and renters can get a state tax credit for renewable resource systems:
  • Up to $1,500 for solar and wind systems
  • Up to $900 for geothermal systems
  • Up to $1,500 for fuel cells (using renewable resources or conventional fuels)
The credit may be taken in one year or carried forward for up to five years. Additions to systems in future years are eligible. A pass-through option allows another Oregon resident or business to claim the tax credit if they pay the applicant the value up-front.
The Department of Energy administers the program. More than 21,000 renewable energy systems for heating and power production have been installed under the program.
Residential Energy Tax Credit (more information)

Business Energy Tax Credit (ORS 317.115, ORS 469.185 to 469.225 and ORS 315.354)
Business investments in renewable energy resources can earn a state tax credit worth 35 percent of eligible project costs. The tax credit may be taken in one year for projects under $20,000. For larger projects, businesses take 10 percent of the credit in the first and second years and 5 percent each year thereafter.
Eligible costs for renewable resource projects are prorated if the payback is greater than 15 years, except the tax credit for solar energy systems is based on a 30-year payback. The tax credit can be carried forward up to eight years. Schools, government agencies and other nonprofit organizations can use the program by finding a business partner to pass through the value of the tax credit.
The Department of Energy administers the program. Businesses have invested in more than 500 renewable resource projects through the program as of year-end 2002.
Business Energy Tax Credit (more information)

Small Scale Energy Loan Program (Oregon Constitution Article XI-J):
Renewable resource investments are eligible for Oregon´s Small Scale Energy Loan Program, created by the 1979 Legislature and approved by Oregon voters in 1980. Low-interest, fixed-rate loans are available for individuals, businesses, schools, special districts, governments, public corporations, cooperatives, tribes and nonprofit organizations. Loans range from $20,000 to $20 million. Terms range from five to 20 years.
Loans are funded by the periodic sale of state general obligation bonds. The program is self-supporting; borrowers pay administrative costs. The Department of Energy administers the program. About 180 renewable resource projects have been financed as of year-end 2002.
Small Scale Energy Loan Program (more information)

Property Tax Exemption (ORS 307.175)
Additional property value resulting from the installation of solar, geothermal, wind, water, fuel cell or methane gas energy systems for heating, cooling or generating electricity is exempt from state property tax until Dec. 31, 2012. The exemption is for end users and does not apply to property owned by the energy industry.

Bonneville Power Administration and Consumer-Owned Utilities
The Bonneville Power Administration provides power to Oregon's 36 consumer-owned utilities and to direct-service industrial customers (mostly aluminum smelters). Bonneville offers utilities a discount on wholesale power rates if they run qualifying conservation and renewable resource programs. Programs must be incremental to what the utility would have done without the discount, or in total they must account for more than 3 percent of its retail revenues. Eligible renewable resource programs include purchases of power or tradable certificates from renewable generating resources, including Bonneville's own Environmentally Preferred Power. Incentives for customers installing renewable energy systems under 25 kilowatts qualify as conservation programs.