ODOE Director Helps Celebrate Eugene’s New Emergency Water Station and Energy Storage Project

On May 11, Oregon Department of Energy Director Janine Benner spoke at the grand opening of a new Eugene Water & Electric Board project designed to help people access clean water in an emergency.

The water station is powered by a solar array and new battery storage system, which will increase local resilience while helping Oregon learn more about how microgrids can be used to prepare for and recover from natural disasters. The project was funded through a grant with ODOE, Sandia National Laboratories, Advanced Grid Research, and Clean Energy States Alliance.

Director Benner’s remarks:

Today marks an exciting milestone – and I’m happy to be here for two very important but very different reasons.

First, as you just heard, I’m the director of the Oregon Department of Energy. In my job, I see the value and the promise of energy resilience and energy storage – and how both are key to achieving our state’s energy goals.

It’s critical that everyone in Oregon has reliable, accessible electricity on our best days – and today is truly one of our best days here in our beautiful state.

Energy storage is part of that equation – especially as we add more renewable energy and seek to use it any time of day or night or any season.

We must also ensure that Oregonians are prepared for our worst days – with resources that help communities tap into back-up power and recover from emergencies large and small.

As Governor Kate Brown has said, “When the next Cascadia subduction zone earthquake strikes the Pacific Northwest, Oregon will face the greatest challenge of our lifetimes. Oregon’s buildings, transportation network, utilities, and population are underprepared for such an event, and we must accelerate our preparations.”

The state is responding with the Resiliency 2025 Vision. It includes, among other things, an effort to get 250,000 Oregon households prepared for a two-week emergency. It also includes a strategy to ensure fuel supplies and alternate energy sources are available to responders and the public so that Oregonians can recover from a catastrophic event.

That’s why this project here – which my agency was proud to support – is so important.

It’s an example of how utilities and the communities they serve can come together to improve local energy resilience. It will teach us a little more about microgrids and how they can be an effective part of how Oregonians generate, save, and use energy. And it provides an excellent lesson on how communities can better support essential functions and needs following an emergency.

That leads me to the second reason I’m happy to be with you all today – which is a little more personal.

I live in Eugene. EWEB is my utility. I send my kids to the 4J school district. Knowing that our community is taking steps to help us prepare for and respond to a potential disaster is comforting to me – and inspiring, too.

We should all follow the leadership of organizations like EWEB to make sure we have emergency supplies of food and water, and that we have a plan with our family and friends should disaster strike.

All of this makes Eugene and the surrounding community stronger and more connected.

I hope we all leave here today with a shared sense of pride for what EWEB is accomplishing, and a shared commitment to doing our part to help build our community’s resiliency.