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Woodburn backs senate bill geared toward lending municipalities more autonomy in energy decisions.

CITY OF WOODBURN - City of Woodburn logo, Woodburn Independent - News  At the behest of Portland General Electric, the city of Woodburn has thrown its support behind Oregon Senate Bill 784.

The bill is currently before the state legislature. Among other things, the bill "authorizes (an) electric company to include as part of portfolio of rate options, program of rates or charges reflecting costs of serving retail electricity consumers within boundaries of local governments with electricity derived from renewable energy sources or paired with un-bundled renewable energy certificates," according to a state legislature overview of the bill.COURTESY OF CITY OF AURORA - Wendy Veliz, Woodburn Independent - News

During the March 22 Woodburn City Council meeting, City Administrator Scott Derickson apprised the council that he was approached by PGE representatives the previous weekend seeking the city's support.

"Typically the city doesn't take legislative positions as a city without city council support," Derickson said. "So this is something that PGE would like the city council to consider. I think there are a few other cities that have endorsed this particular legislation. And they would like to have Woodburn on their list of communities that are in favor of it."

In a letter addressed to Derickson, PGE's Local Government Affairs Manager Wendy Veliz said the bill would broaden a city's scope and options in engaging renewable energy.

"This would support the city's sustainability and/or climate action goals," Veliz wrote, noting that Beaverton and Hillsboro have also endorsed it.

Veliz added that SB 784 "is based on cities who want to move at their own pace to increase their use of clean energy to meet their climate and/or sustainability goals. PGE is doing a lot to incorporate more renewables into our mix and reduce the carbon footprint of our power supply, but some cities want to move even more quickly get to 100% renewable. PGE wants to help them and this bill would allow that."

Council President Robert Carney said he had an opportunity to review the bill after Derickson contacted him and Mayor Eric Swenson to explore putting it on the council agenda.

"The essence of what I read in it was that there are cities around the state that are trying to compel other cities to join in and develop a very early and rigid protocol to accept various forms of energy, such as wind power, solar power, that sort of thing," Carney said. "What this bill does is it returns the autonomy from making those decisions to individual cities rather than adding a cabal or cartel of cities determine what all cities must do in the state of Oregon."

Veliz furnished an outline to Derickson that suggested as much:

Beyond PGE's new climate goals, local governments that choose to move faster should be able to collaborate with PGE on an accelerated program to meet their goals.

Many local governments in PGE's service territory have local climate action and sustainability plans, some of which include 100% clean and renewable community-wide electricity goals.

SB 784 (Sections 3 and 4) enables local governments, if they choose, to work with their utility on program design to meet their clean electricity goals and provides clear authority to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to approve the program that results from the collaborative process.

SB 784 will: allow local governments to choose small and community-owned resources if they wish; allow consideration of non-energy benefits like resiliency, water savings, species protection, or local economic development; allow both utility and non-utility ownership of energy resources; protect low-income customers in participating communities; and minimize cost shifts to non-participating customers.

"We cherish our independence in choosing our energy sources, and I think that we should continue doing that going forward," Carney said in his support of the endorsement.

"I support the bill because I called Wendy Veliz at least 10 times a day during the ice storm," Swenson related. "I know that PGE is very conscientious about creating opportunities for power that is earth-friendly, that's sustainable. So I think their take on this (and request) is merited."


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