Oregon Department of Energy Year in Review
From our Director, Janine Benner
I’m writing this letter in December – typically the season for slowing down and taking stock. I have to admit, however, that while this letter is all about looking back at what the Oregon Department of Energy accomplished in 2018, we haven’t quite figured out the slowing down part. And the next year looks to be even more exciting for the ODOE team.
In the last few weeks of 2018, we pressed ahead on the latest deliverables for Governor Brown’s Built Environment Executive Order. Along with our state agency partners, we developed a strategy for reducing plug-load in state buildings, released a 10-year plan for achieving energy efficiency in low-income housing, and created a tool for evaluating life-cycle costs and savings of energy upgrades in state buildings. We were also excited to see conversations about spill at Columbia River dams reach a critical milestone that will help preserve the important carbon-free flexibility of the region's hydropower system while protecting fish.
The start of 2018 was just as busy: I became the agency’s first Senate-confirmed director in February, the same month the Energy Facility Siting Council authorized Oregon's first large-scale solar energy facility. While navigating the short but active legislative session, we also promoted Renewable Energy Development grants and conducted two emergency preparedness exercises. And as winter turned to spring, we held a resiliency workshop for consumer-owned utilities, developed a biennial budget that reduced the energy supplier assessment, and released new tools for tracking electricity resources and encouraging electric vehicle adoption.
The rest of the year was similarly fast-paced, with plenty of other firsts, like the first facility certified to earn thermal renewable energy certificates, the state’s first Renewable Natural Gas Inventory, and a brand new Biennial Energy Report. This report, published in November, is chock-full of energy data and information, plus in-depth coverage of major issues affecting our state – we hope you use it as a resource during the upcoming legislative session and in other parts of your work.
December is also about looking ahead, and as proud as I am of my team and our agency for the contributions we’ve made to Oregon this past year, I am extremely excited about what the future holds. At the end of November, Governor Brown released her 2019-21 recommended budget, which includes a promising proposal for a new state agency: the Oregon Climate Authority. We’re excited about what this means for addressing climate change at the state level, and are looking forward to robust discussions about how the team at ODOE can support Oregon's next steps toward meeting our climate and clean energy strategies.
Thanks for being part of our work this past year. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with you in 2019. We'll keep you informed along the way, and welcome your input, questions, and suggestions all year long.
Director, Oregon Department of Energy
The Hanford nuclear site cleanup continues to be a project of almost unimaginably large proportions. The ODOE team working on Hanford stayed busy this year, especially this fall, when the U.S. Department of Energy proposed reclassifying certain high-level wastes at Hanford. ODOE weighed in both formally and in the media to ensure Oregon's interests are being well represented in the discussion.
We published our Biogas and Renewable Natural Gas Inventory in September. After a year of thoughtful analysis and discussion by ODOE staff and dozens of stakeholders across the state, the report found that up to 20 percent of the state's natural gas usage could be replaced by the low-carbon RNG alternative.
Oregon continues to lead on energy efficiency.
Earlier this fall, just a few months after ODOE submitted our statewide application for the American Council on Energy Efficient Economy's annual ranking of most efficient states, we got the good news. Oregon ranks seventh most energy efficient in the country. Even better: this is the twelfth year we've cracked the top 10.
Record Number of Siting Applications. ODOE's Energy Facility Siting team had a busy year. In November, we reported that ODOE was reviewing the largest number of applications ever. Drivers for this volume include the rise in utility-scale solar energy facilities and amendments to existing facilities. It's not just ODOE staff working hard; proposed energy facilities are reviewed by the all-volunteer Energy Facility Siting Council, who work hard to understand complex and wide-ranging issues before making decisions.
Successful Sunset of Incentive Programs. Most of ODOE's energy incentive programs ended with the 2017 tax year. Work to close out those programs continued well into 2018, and staff took great pride in wrapping up the programs and delivering consistently helpful service to participants across the state. In September, the Secretary of State's Office released a report on ODOE's legacy incentive programs, noting the many ways we've implemented changes in the agency to improve program oversight and performance.
Throughout 2018, we continued to further develop and widely share the Oregon Fuel Action Plan, which explains how ODOE will support emergency services during a severe and long-term petroleum shortage. At numerous conferences, workshops, and trainings, we engaged with county and tribal emergency managers, fuel distributors, and the military to ensure that, if needed, the response from government and industry will be timely and well-coordinated to meet Oregon’s fuel needs.
Oregon Goes Electric. The electric vehicle revolution is here. About a year ago, Governor Brown issued a Zero Emission Vehicle Executive Order. The ODOE team has worked with our counterparts at other agencies to advance electric vehicle adoption and support new EV infrastructure. Work includes promoting state rebates for EV purchases and leases; developing a new recognition program for EV champions; and launching a new Go Electric Oregon website, which offers one-stop shopping for EV-related information and news.
Informing Our Work. Throughout 2018, we hosted, facilitated, or participated in dozens of meetings that were essential to advancing our energy work. Thanks to everyone who showed up to our three Energy Advisory Work Group meetings, our two COU Managers' meetings, seven Energy Facility Siting Councilmeetings, our workshops on energy storage, Hanford, resiliency, and our budget, and to in-depth working groups focused on energy efficiency and building codes, renewable natural gas, carbon dioxide rules, solar facility siting, and more.
The Oregon Department of Energy was the proud recipient of the Clean Energy States' State Leadership in Clean Energy Award in May for our work to increase the amount of renewable energy in Oregon through our Renewable Energy Development Grants program. In June, we announced $2 million in new RED grant awards.
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