Is Portland Really Committed To Clean, Green Energy?

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Is Portland Really Committed To Clean, Green Energy?
by Jack Kerfoot

In June 2017, Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commissioners voted unanimously to commit to use 100% of the community's electricity from renewable energy by 2035 and generate zero carbon emissions by 2050. Portland's plan also included commitments for energy efficiency, community-based renewable energy, job training, transit expansion and electric buses.


Today, over 150 cities across the United States have committed to clean energy goals[1]. Six cities in Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Vermont now generate 100% of their electricity from renewable energy. How is Portland doing? The results to date have been disappointing at best.


In April 2019, Portland's transit agency, TriMet announced the arrival of the city's first all-electric buses. However, this news was followed by the Tri-Met transit board approving a contract to purchase 31 diesel buses! The transit board further approved a plan to buy as many as 129 diesel buses in the future!


On December 13, 2019, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland General Electric CEO Maria Pope and TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey announced new proposals and policies that will allow Portland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50% over the next ten years[2] Does Portland finally have a real plan to achieve to use 100% of the community's electricity from renewable energy by 2035 and generate zero carbon emissions by 2050? The answer is not really!


Let's blow away the smoke and remove the mirrors and thoroughly evaluate the announcement.


  • Why has it taken our city government over two years to announce any proposals and policies to achieve the clean, green energy for our city? Are the upcoming city elections the driving force for these announcements?


  • Will the proposed plans actually measure our city's annual GHG emissions and if so, will the results be reported to the citizens of Portland? Plans and polices are worthless unless reliable data is acquired to determine whether or not the targets are being met. This critical question is a detail that was not addressed in the December 13, 2019 announcement.


  • Does Oregon have the renewable energy resources to generate 100% renewable energy for our city and our state with current technology? The answer is a resounding, YES! Oregon is rich in wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal resources that could generate 100% of our city's power from clean, green energy.


  • Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to Portland General Electric's (PGE) Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). PGE's plan is designed to defer capital expenditures for renewable energy as far out into the future as possible. Why? Deferring major capital expenditures will maximize the utilities profits.


  • PGE's IRP has made several questionable assumptions, including an unlimited supply of cheap natural gas. PGE's plan also doesn't account for the new technology continuing to drive down the cost of wind and solar.


  • TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey has stated that the transit organization will not buy any new diesel buses after 2025. No commitment was made to cancel the option to buy 129 new diesel buses, prior to 2025.


  • TriMet has committed to convert the Max light rail transit (LRT) system to 100% wind energy 2020. However, this commitment first requires PGE and/or Pacific Power (PacifiCorp) to provide access to energy from utility scale wind farms.


    The sad reality is the only tangible renewable energy commitment our city government has made is to commit to get rid of gasoline powered leaf blowers by 2021. Although this is a positive step, stopping the use of gasoline powered leaf blowers is not a significant milestone in slowing global warming and climate change.



    This article was reprinted with permission from Jack Kerfoot. Jack is a candidate for Portland Commissioner.


    [1] www.sierraclub.com


    [2] "Portland Leaders Announce New Climate Action Proposals" by Monica Samyoa, OPB, December 13, 2019.


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