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The Great Green Power Swindle

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

One of the governor’s top priorities is SB 373, a bill mandating that most electric utilities in Oregon derive at least 25% of their power from wind, solar, wave, geothermal and/or biomass energy by 2025. Since those sources currently provide only 2.4% of Oregon’s electricity, that’s a significant increase.

Unfortunately, the governor seems to be ignoring the lessons learned from recent experience with voluntary green power programs in Oregon. Most electricity consumers can already buy wind or solar power by paying a surcharge on their monthly electric bills, but very few of them are interested.

For instance, only 5.8% of PGE ratepayers and 3.6% of Pacific Power customers have signed up for green power, despite more than five years of aggressive marketing. In liberal Eugene, only 2.2% of the residential customers of Eugene Water and Electric Board prefer green power, and participation rates have declined every year for the past four years.

Down in Ashland, the good news is that green power purchases doubled between 2004 and 2005. However, that only brought participation rates up to 0.25% of all customers.

Rarely do we get a chance to field-test a public policy prior to its enactment. In this case we have, and Oregonians have clearly rejected it.

Green power is a nice idea, but it should remain a choice for consumers, not a requirement.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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