In the midst of a record heat wave, wildfires and power outages, the Oregon legislature on Sunday passed a bill, HB 2021 c, which requires 100% clean energy by 2040 as well as the inclusion of small grids as part of community renewable energy projects. Oregon Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill.
Temperatures hit 108 degrees on Saturday, 112 degrees on Sunday and 116 degrees on Monday in Portland. Additionally, on Wednesday Brown called for a state of emergency in response to bushfire threats across the state.
Power outages hit utility customers in both Portland General Electric (PGE) and Pacificcorp, affecting more than 13,000 PGE customers, and at one point, 30,000 PacifiCorp customers were kept in the dark for two hours in southern Oregon. Company spokesman Tom Gaunt said the cause of the blackout was still being investigated.
Such outages during heat waves can be deadly, and resilience solutions are critical, said Alessandra de la Torre, energy justice organizer for Rogue Climate, a climate organization in southern Oregon.
“Thirty thousand forces from the Pacific Ocean [a subsidiary of PacifiCorp] Customers in southern Oregon have lost power amid a historic heat wave.” Blackouts or blackouts can quickly become deadly, with heat exhaustion turning into heat stroke. Never has it been more clear: We need to make sure we don’t Separating anyone from critical energy systems, especially in these climate change-fueled disasters.”
Preliminary results indicate that the blackout was the result of a “lining” failure, according to PacifiCorp’s Gauntt. It is a hollow electrical insulator that allows an electrical conductor to pass safely through a conductive barrier such as a transformer or circuit breaker without making an electrical connection.
Microgrids for communities
Microgrids are mentioned in the Clean Energy for All Scale’s definition of 100% Community Renewable Energy, which is required by the bill.
Community renewable energy is “one or more renewable energy systems that are associated with utility distribution or transportation assets and may be combined with microgrids, storage systems, demand response measures, energy-related infrastructure that enhances climate resilience, or other similar measures,” the project said. Law.
These systems must have community ownership by a non-profit, local, tribal, or renewable energy cooperative. They should also submit an agreement that demonstrates how infrastructure provides direct benefits to the community in which the project is located, said Oriana Magnera, director of energy, climate and transportation for Verde, a nonprofit whose goal is to build environmental wealth through advocacy.
50 million dollars to support projects
The law provides $50 million to support these types of projects. “We expect microgrids and islands to be a large component of projects focused on resilience,” Magnera said. “These technologies can also be incorporated into locally negotiated utility prices, and jurisdictions that work with utilities on that front can focus the power purchased for their residents on small grids,” she said.
The bill also calls for consultation with tribes, prioritizes benefits for rural, coastal, low-income, black, indigenous and people of color, and requires strong labor standards.
Small networks are especially important when severe weather hits and the network fails communities, said de la Torre of Rogue Climate. “Community-based renewable energy projects with microgrids and energy storage can ensure that people get the energy they need in heat waves, fires, and other disasters.” It added that during outage events, microgrids provide vital services such as heating and cooling, phone charging and medicine cooling.
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PacifiCorp has “island building” projects but no small networks in the pipeline, according to Gauntt. On the other hand, PGE is now testing several projects that aim to provide flexibility with small networks. For two PGE pilot partnerships, the facility owns and deploys batteries behind the counter at customer sites, and customers provide solar and other on-site resources to build microgrids. The tool has deployed a battery at the Beaverton Public Safety Center and plans to deploy another one at the Anderson National Guard Center in Oregon.
To provide reliability as PacifiCorp retires coal plants and bills everyone’s clean energy bill at 100%, the utilities will focus on innovations in technology, Gauntt said. This includes an advanced nuclear project – a partnership with TerraPower – for a retired coal plant site in Wyoming. PacifiCorp’s coal resources will be removed from Oregon rates by 2030, as required by SB 1547.
Heat hampers relief efforts
De la Torre said that in southern Oregon — where thousands of people lost their homes in the Almeida fire last year — the need for resilience is clear. A recent heat wave has forced Rogue Climate to “drastically” reduce the hours of its fire-relief site serving people displaced by temperatures above 100 degrees. She said these temperatures made working without air conditioning unsafe for community members, volunteers and staff.
De la Torre said clean energy is affordable and could help lift communities across Oregon from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic and the state’s devastating summer wildfires. “100% clean energy for everyone is an important opportunity for Oregon to create jobs, boost local economies, and ensure a just transition when we need it most,” she said.
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