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Work group tackles energy needs

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

September 9, 2006

The Oregon Renewable Energy Working Group will convene in Hood River on Wednesday to formulate plans that increase the production of “green power.”

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has mandated that the group find a way to ensure that 25 percent of all energy used in the state is derived from a renewable source by 2025.

“We have a great opportunity to protect consumers from rising costs by decreasing our dependence upon fossil fuels.” said Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, who sits on the working group.

The OREWG will consider whether the Renewable Portfolio Standards adopted in other states can also be used in this state. The advisory body will discuss issues related to these standards from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Waucoma Room at the Embarq Waucoma Center.

According to Smith, the challenge facing the group is finding ways to meet the governor’s goal without raising prices for consumers or creating an economic hardship for employers.

“What we’re trying to do as a working group is come up with a combination of tax incentives and regulations that are cost-effective,” said Smith.

She said 44 percent of Oregon’s electric use already comes from hydropower. So, enough wind, bio-fuels and solar sources have to be found to diversify energy needs as the population grows.

In an effort to learn more about state polices to develop and deploy bioenergy, Smith attended a national conference in June. She joined government leaders in Portsmouth, N.H., to discuss environmental impacts and examine economic factors related to the production of renewable energy.

“Oregon is already developing biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The question is, ‘Do we have enough natural resources and production capacity to build a feasible and sustainable supply in-state or will we have to ship in large quantities from the Midwest?’” asked Smith.

On Friday, Smith led members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that she chairs on a field trip to Bonneville Dam. The Bonneville Power Administration also arranged for the legislators to tour Dittmer Control Center in Vancouver, the main hub of all transmission lines.

Smith’s committee has also visited the Coffin Butte Methane Gas Project near Corvallis and the Ocean Wave Energy program at Oregon State University.

“Oregon is a cornucopia of potential for alternative energy and I’m excited to get to work with my so many experts to find and implement solutions that lower our reliance on hydro and petroleum,” Smith said.

She said the job growth from expanding the renewable energy base and the use of cleaner fuels can be nothing but a “win-win” for Oregonians.

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