Nov 15, 2018

Hood River County, the City of Hood River and the Ports of Hood River and Cascade Locks have adopted and begun implementing the region’s new Energy Plan, and the timing couldn’t be better. Lawmakers in Salem are working on a statewide plan to lead Oregon toward a clean energy economy that benefits all.

The Hood River Energy Plan calls for us to significantly replace electricity-powered by fossil fuels such as coal or diesel with renewable energy like hydro, solar and wind technologies. Even before the plan was adopted by our local governments, residents and local leaders have shown a commitment to investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Creating change through local action

Recently, for example, the Hood River County Health Department made the smart choice to install solar panels, which in the future could completely replace diesel generators that kick in during a power outage. At the Hood River Public Works Building, solar technology is saving taxpayers thousands of dollars in utility bills.

County policies help. But state policies do more.

These projects are just two examples of the positive change we can create through collaborative partnerships between regional public agencies, local investors and private foundations. Our attention must also focus on preparing our homes, especially those of us with the fewest resources, for hotter summers, shorter winters, and higher energy costs.

While it takes significant investments to improve and weatherize single-family homes, we need state policy that also makes similar investments feasible for small businesses, farmers, apartment owners and the many residents who rent in multi-family dwellings.

In Salem, the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is debating the merits of the Clean Energy Jobs bill, which aims to price pollution from the state’s largest emitters and invest the proceeds into solutions that benefit all Oregonians. Simply put: This bill can help us prepare our homes, farms, and businesses for dealing with our future climate.

Like the projects at our health department and public works, a lot of the work needed to create climate-resilient communities can be made possible with proceeds from the bill. Better still, local workers will be needed to bring these projects to life, therein creating homegrown jobs that can’t be outsourced.

We’re already on our way. For example, Energy Trust of Oregon has enabled energy efficiency projects across the state, which have saved customers $5.6 billion on utility bills on a $1.3 billion investment. Clean Energy Jobs will enable more of these projects and help both towns, families, and businesses to finish new projects that will both reduce pollution and save on energy bills. Clean economy jobs are growing at an 11 percent annual rate in Oregon — faster than state employment as a whole.

The county’s energy plan provides an excellent example of our long-standing tradition of collaborative leadership. Dozens of volunteers and hundreds of hours created this blueprint to reduce fossil fuel emissions, thanks to support from the Energy Trust of Oregon, the Ford Family Foundation, AmeriCorps, the county and the cities and Ports of Hood River and Cascade Locks.

Like our local sustainability plans, an innovative policy like Clean Energy Jobs doesn’t happen by itself. We need champions in Salem to have the vision to vote for it. In Hood River, we have set a great example of collaborative leadership. The Clean Energy Jobs bill provides another opportunity for collaborative leadership. We will all thrive because of it.

Guest blog post by Becky Brun, Hood River City Councilor. This originally appeared in Hood River News as a guest opinion piece.


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