Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only

Future Energy Conference (April 13, 2011)

Thank you for the opportunity to address energy issues in Oregon.  The state has undergone a clean energy revolution in the past decade and no single issue will have more of an impact on Oregon in the coming decade.

We’ve been working for years to de-carbonize our economy, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and polluting coal while developing home-grown renewable energy and energy efficiency expertise that creates local jobs, boosts our economy, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of you in this room have been instrumental in passing the landmark policies and deploying the billions in investment in solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and wave development and energy efficiency that have made Oregon a national leader.

In fact, Oregon now has the most jobs per capita in the clean energy economy of any state in the country, according to a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  And clean energy job growth is five times stronger than overall job growth.

An economy of innovation is within our reach – a low carbon economy -- one that leads the way in advanced manufacturing and designing products that use less energy; one that rewards efficiency rather than excess.  It’s also an economy that values the local -- Oregon companies supplying Oregon companies -- where communities capture their local value streams – their energy savings, wind, sun, forest slash – and drive their economies by keeping that value at home instead of those dollars leaking out into the world economy for imported energy.  

It is time that we keep more of our money at home, and start injecting new money into Oregon’s economy as we sell the fruits of our low-carbon innovation to others.

And we’ve got plenty of examples of this model…like the solar array I was lucky enough to launch at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario that included panels made by Solar World in Hillsboro and electronics from PV Powered in Bend.

Or the story of Miles Fiberglass in Clackamas, a family-owned company that has transformed itself after its core business of making composite parts for RV’s was hit hard by the recession.  Miles has grown from 30 to 100 employees by developing high strength/low weight ratio composites for wind blades and by training blade repair technicians who service Vestas turbines.

As you well know, it’s no accident that Oregon is reaping the job creation and community development rewards of companies like Zeachem, Miles Fiberglass and PV Powered and Solar World and hundreds of others throughout the state.

Policies that help level the playing field and provide access to market for emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies have been critically important…and yes, that includes incentives like Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit and Residential Energy Tax Credit that I believe have benefited the state.

It’s no accident that 16,000 Oregon businesses have invested over $1.6 billion in energy efficiency, including lighting, heating, industrial processes and other measures – making Oregon the number three state in the nation for energy efficiency.  Nearly 300,000 people have installed energy efficient appliances in their homes, like refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines, and we are saving $500 million a year in energy costs. 

It’s no accident that Oregon has become the U.S. solar manufacturing capital, employing 1,700 people now and projected to grow to 2,350 by the end of this year.

And it’s no accident that Oregon boasts 2,118 megawatts of operating renewable energy today, enough to power 530,000 homes and avoid over four million tons of carbon dioxide pollution annually.

The only reason we can consider the early retirement of the Boardman coal plant is because Oregon has demonstrated the potential for meeting our energy needs from a diverse mix of generation and efficiency.  That’s a model for the country.

But instead of recounting the breakthroughs, the megawatts and avoided carbon of the last decade of energy in Oregon, I want to challenge you to help us determine what the next one looks like.

Because there is still plenty of work to do, and spurring investment in Oregon’s emerging clean energy industries is a key component of my job creation and economic development strategy. 

The central question – it seems to me -- is whether we shape the coming investment and development or it shapes us.

As clean energy technologies transition from leading edge to mainstream, and as Oregon becomes a more significant exporter – of clean energy products, technology and energy – both the industry and Oregon are entering a new phase that requires new strategies to guide where we go from here. 

We must become more than just cheerleaders for renewable energy.  We need a vision and a deliberate strategy for meeting and exceeding the state’s carbon-reduction targets and the goals and timetables of our Renewable Portfolio Standard that balances our state’s economic, environmental and quality of life values.  We also need to be clear-eyed about when those values might be in conflict and open to engaging a public dialog about the way forward.

We should not shy away from hard discussions bubbling up around Oregon today, such as how wave energy can be developed in a way that is consistent with our marine conservation goals and coastal community interest in maintaining a viable fishing industry…or concerns about the impacts of utility-scale wind projects on view-sheds or other community values.  In fact, it is critically important we acknowledge the trade-offs and impacts inherent in scaling-up any industrial development, including renewable energy.

How would you answer the following questions?

Are local communities in Oregon prepared for the $5 billion or more in new renewable energy development possible by 2020? 

Is the state engaged in planning and siting the right infrastructure and transmission in the right places to match supply and demand?

Are we prepared to maximize the job creation potential of new investment and ensure we are building a local supply chain that brings economic benefits to all regions of the state?

Do we have a policy framework and shared state and local vision on key issues like permitting and taxation that gives certainty to investors, innovators and communities?

Do we fully understand the impacts to industry and low-income families brought by a shift to more renewable technologies in our energy resource base?  Do we have a plan for how potentially increased costs should be shared?

Have we adequately considered the range of potential natural resource, wildlife and community impacts of future renewable energy development?  And do we have workable public processes in place to address concerns?

I’m afraid the answer to too many of these questions is “no.”

That’s why I’m beginning work on a 10-year Energy Plan for Oregon – it’s the only way we can hope to make critical decisions as a state with forethought about the investment and infrastructure needed to transform our economy; the only way for communities -- both urban and rural -- to help shape their own future and the best way to discuss the trade-offs of our energy choices and how to accommodate change while preserving what is most special about our state.

I believe a 10-year energy plan should:

     1. Maximize opportunities to leverage energy efficiency gains and develop our own energy resources, while importing fewer resources;

     2. Include strategic investments to expand both clean technology manufacturing and the potential for small business to access the supply chain in Oregon; and

     3. Address structural issues in state bureaucracy -- aligning and streamlining Oregon’s energy policy and permitting apparatus to better serve our clean energy objectives.

Energy efficiency was a centerpiece of my campaign, and it remains a primary focus.  It is a great creator of family-wage jobs that can’t be exported out of state, and it is also one of the most effective and least costly ways to meet Oregonians future energy needs.  It’s estimated that our state can meet 85% of our future energy needs through energy efficiency upgrades.

Toward that end I need your help ensuring our Cool Schools initiative passes the legislature.
Energy audits already have begun at 500 Oregon schools as the first step toward efficiency and weatherization upgrades to begin this summer.  We’re working hard to create jobs across the state, save school districts money on out-dated heating and lighting and create healthier learning environments, free of asbestos, leaking roofs and mold.

We’re also working to create a preference for efficient biomass boilers for those schools -- replacing aging fossil fuel-based heating systems with a homegrown solution that saves districts money while also providing jobs for rural Oregonians.

But this is only the beginning.  Beyond Cool Schools we have a unique opportunity here on the West Coast and I would like to take a moment to discuss it.

The 2010 elections left America increasingly divided, with many states trending toward reduced support for clean energy and sustainable economic policies.  The Great Recession has created an understandable sense of urgency around job creation and economic development – but  it has also provided an opportunity for some to use high unemployment as an excuse for relaxing environmental protections.  Indeed, a new narrative is beginning to take root in America: that sound environmental stewardship is a barrier to economic growth and job creation.

Washington, Oregon and California, however, defied this trend – retaining progressive leadership committed to clean energy and the belief that we can create jobs and economic activity without sacrificing long term environmental stewardship; that the clean economy offers us perhaps the only path to a sustainable future that is insulated from the chilling effect of fluctuating fossil fuel cost and supply.

These three states have a unique opportunity to change the national narrative and to demonstrate the value of clean economic policies by a collaborative approach to increasing the energy efficiency of our built environment on a regional scale.  We know that we face high unemployment in our building trades.  We also know that new construction in the housing market is not going to bring us out of this recession because of the large stock of vacant housing stock.  But we have an enormous inventory of residential, commercial and industrial property that could benefit from energy efficiency retrofits.  My point is that the future of the building trades may not be in new construction as much as it is in making our existing structures more efficient.

There is much to recommend this approach.  First, energy efficiency jobs cannot be out-sourced, and there are thousands of good jobs to be had right here in the region.  Second, increasing the energy efficiency of our built environment keeps dollars here in Oregon and in the region that would otherwise be lost to imported energy.  Third, a collaborative regional approach to energy efficiency can be a central component of fulfilling the NWPPC finding that 85% of the regions energy needs over the next decade can be met through conservation.

Furthermore, a regional collaborative on energy efficiency offers a pathway to breath new life into the effort address climate change.  The once promising Western States Climate Initiative got high centered over the issue of cap and trade but the problem remains.  By demonstrating that climate change can be addressed in a way that creates jobs; reduces cost and energy demand; and keeps more money circulating in the region - a multi-state regional effort provides perhaps the best opportunity to reframe the national narrative and drive significant change in federal energy policy. 

At a meeting in Olympia last week with Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, we discussed steps we might take together to develop this kind of west coast collaborative.  Oregon’s Rural Development Initiative is pursuing a similar path. The opportunity is both rich and time limited.  I believe we have the capacity and the commitment in this region to make it happen.

I’m also committed to maximizing our own energy resources by working this session to begin a new and efficient incentive package for community scale renewable energy projects, expanding Oregon’s feed-in tariff pilot project and promoting community-scale biomass energy projects.

I need you to help me work productively on addressing the inevitable tradeoffs that will arise as we transition to a clean economy.  We can’t make a commitment to solar, and wind, and geothermal, and wave, and biomass without also making a plan for how we get that energy from where it is produced to where it is sold and used.  We can’t grow an industry in advanced clean technologies and manufacturing if all our prime industrial land is turned into shopping malls and condominiums.  A true paradigm shift cannot be politically unilateral, and I need the help of Oregonians who are willing to think beyond the mere exercise of protecting existing policy frameworks and holding on to the past with white-knuckled determination.

I believe that Oregon can be a global leader in developing the technologies and techniques in both energy efficiency and energy production, then marketing these as products to the rest of the world. We also have the opportunity to integrate clean technology and energy efficiency measures and practices into existing, conventional industries in ways that provide them with a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  But we must engage all Oregonians in crafting the strategy to achieve this vision.

I applaud you all for your contributions to helping Oregon realize the promise of a clean energy economy and urge you to help us continue to evolve our approach to benefit Oregon into the future.


Keep up with Governor Kitzhaber