Governor should sign biomass bill

July 11, 2009 05:00 am

Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he may veto a bill approved by the 2009 Legislature that would count electricity generated at relatively old biomass plants toward the state’s renewable portfolio standard. That would be a mistake.

The renewable portfolio standard was adopted by the 2007 Legislature with a generous push from the governor. It requires that utilities get between 5  and 25 percent of their power from new renewable sources by the year 2025. The higher figure applies to large utilities like Pacific Power; the requirement is lower for smaller utilities.

It’s a noble goal, but the 2007 legislation has a major flaw that the bill now on Kulongoski’s desk seeks to remedy, at least in part. It does not allow utilities to count renewable energy generated in plants that were operating before 1995, though the age of the generating facility has nothing at all to do with the cleanness of the power it produces. It also does not allow utilities to count power generated by existing hydroelectric plants when calculating the mix, though that’s apparently going to have to be tackled by another Legislature.

Those in favor of a veto argue that the bill before Kulongoski would allow utilities to get by without producing as much new clean energy as they would like. They’re correct, of course, but they miss the point. If they want such standards, rather than set it artificially low by ignoring the clean energy already being produced and sold in the state, it makes more sense to acknowledge the good that’s already here and set the standard higher.

The bill on Kulongoski’s desk would accomplish at least part of that by counting some older energy in the renewable mix. It’s a step in the right direction, and Kulongoski should sign it.

– Wescom News Service