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Ted Wheeler, Deborah Kafoury, say the community must get to 100 percent renewables

Leaders of the city of Portland and Multnomah County pledged Monday that the community would get all its energy from renewable sources by the year 2050.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury joined 25 other cities and several major corporations that have committed to a 100 percent renewable future, including San Diego, Salt Lake City, General Motors, Coca Cola and Microsoft.

"Getting our community to 100 percent renewable energy is a big goal,'' said Wheeler, in announcing the joint pledge at a news conference with Kafoury.

"This is a pledge to our children's future,'' Kafoury said. "One-hundred percent renewables means a future with cleaner air, a stable climate and more jobs and economic opportunity.''

The two jurisdictions have a joint climate action plan that has been cited as among the best in the world.

The pledge, which will be submitted for approval soon to the City Council and Board of County Commissioners, has two separate deadlines.

By 2035, the city and county commited to work with PGE and Pacific Power to shift their entire electricity portfolio sold here to solar, wind or other renewable energy.

By 2050, the city and county will work to eliminate all other fossil fuel use within their boundaries, such as vehicle fuels, natural gas and home heating oil.

That means shifting cars and other vehicles to fuels relying on renewables, such as electric vehicles powered by wind and solar energy. NW Natural would also have to shift from natural gas to biogas and other renewable forms of energy, under the city and county goal.

Michael Armstrong, deputy director of the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, acknowledged the city and county don't have direct control over what fuels the utilities use and what powers motor vehicle fleets, among other challenges.

But the state has already obligated electric utilities to provide half of their power from renewables by 2040, Armstrong says. "What this is saying is we can't stop at 50 percent," he says, to avert dramatic climate change.

"We want to make it very clear that we need to be transitioning faster, not slower."

Among the looming challenges will be to pressure PGE not to invest in large natural-gas powered plants at Boardman to replace its coal plant when it shuts down in 2020.

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