Jan 30, 2017

Figuring out how Oregon can shift to clean energy just got a whole lot easier. A new Clean Energy Report Card grades Oregon’s progress toward a clean energy economy and shows a suite of solutions -- from transportation to electricity to natural resources -- which will create good paying jobs, make the air cleaner and protect healthy communities.

Oregon needs several solutions working together to accelerate the clean energy economy and make Oregon a leader in addressing global warming. Oregon has made some impressive strides, by developing the Clean Fuels Standard and passing the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Act, but there is a lot more to do. Here are some of the report’s findings:

report_book_facebook_download.jpgProducing Power (A-):  Thanks in significant part to decreasing wind and solar prices and the passage of the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Act last year, Oregon gets an A- in producing clean power. By 2040, around 80% of Oregon electricity will come from renewable energy. Combining new renewables with continued energy efficiency and developing technology in smart grids, energy storage, and demand response will meet our energy needs without the need for new, expensive, unhealthy fossil fuel infrastructure.

To continue moving forward, Oregon should provide smart, well-managed financial incentives to encourage the continued growth of the renewable industry. Investments should be in energy efficiency and additional renewables, not natural gas or other fossil fuels.

Getting Around (C-):  Nothing causes more climate-changing pollution in Oregon than moving people and goods. Oregon earns a C- in transportation due to the huge need to fund and expand transit, create more walking and biking options, and increase the use of electric cars, buses, and freight. The grade is buoyed by the Clean Fuels Standard, which is reducing carbon pollution in vehicles and holding oil companies responsible for the climate pollution from their fuels.

Buildings and Operations (B-): Oregon has been a national leader in energy efficiency, but we’re falling behind, leading to Oregon’s B- grade. By 2050, more than 700,000 new homes and apartments, and 800 million sq. feet of commercial building space (the equivalent 3,077 Super Wal-mart stores), will go up around our state. Oregon has the opportunity to set standards to more than double our energy efficiency from new buildings, which will reduce climate pollution, improve air quality, and save owners and renters a billion dollars by 2050.

Innovative Solutions (C): While Oregon’s cities are demonstrating innovative tools to protect the climate, large polluters and fossil fuel companies pollute the air for free, while the rest of us deal with the health, economic, and environmental problems they create. To strengthen Oregon’s clean energy economy and improve our C grade, Oregon should account for the cost of climate and air pollution, address super-pollutants like methane and black carbon, and expand good agriculture and forestry practices. 

A key strategy is to hold large polluters accountable by limiting the pollution they can pump into the air, pricing each ton of climate pollution, and use the proceeds to invest in clean energy solutions and economically distressed communities.  These proceeds would support solar and wind power, transit, electric vehicles, more efficient homes and businesses, and healthier communities, including the communities most affected by climate change and dirty fossil fuels.

Climate Equity (D):  In Oregon and across the country, already disadvantaged communities are also those hit first and worst by climate-changing pollution and the heat, extreme weather and other impacts of climate change. Yet Oregon has not prioritized the needs of these communities, leading to a D grade.  To find meaningful solutions for Oregon’s climate future, communities hit first and hardest by climate pollution need a leading role in developing solutions and receive the resources needed to protect themselves, including affordable, energy efficient housing and transportation.

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Oregon has made laudable success in moving forward on clean energy policies, but we’re a long way from our targets for a clean economy and a stable climate. By following the advice in this Report Card, we can invest in our communities, grow the economy and provide a healthy future for our children and future generations. Here’s to straight As!