Archive for March, 2007
RPS out of committee
by damian | Uncategorized

The senate environment and natural resources committee voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of the 25% renewable portfolio standard, SB 373, proposed by Gov. K. The interesting thing is, nobody knows how much passage of the bill is going to cost utilities and ratepayers. Earlier this week I spoke to PGE, which is working on a cost analysis of wind integration to meet the RPS goals. I have a hard time believing, however, that utilities such as PGE would support the RPS without knowing first how much this will cost.

Role Reversal
by damian | Uncategorized

Tonight was the first contractor meeting I’ve attended at which the contractors were informing the city about biodiesel instead of vice versa. When members attending the Northwest Utility Contractors Association meeting tonight asked a Bureau of Environmental Services construction manager about a new B5 mandate on all the city’s public works projects, they were met with a blank stare. I had heard that the city was considering incorporating a biodiesel requirement into all their construction contracts. But this was the first I’d heard it was already happening. NUCA will have a special meeting on biodiesel next month to inform all of its members about the new requirements.

A chance to start from scratch
by damian | Uncategorized

What a difference a river can make. Tonight I attended a citizens’ advisory task force meeting for the Clark County high capacity transit system study, which is evaluating development potential for travel options in the Vancouver metro region. I’ve attended many transportation planning meetings in Portland with Metro, TriMet and ODOT, but with the exception of Columbia River Crossing meetings, this was my first journey into Clark County transportation planning.

The list of differences in planning approaches between PDX and Vancouver is long (the link between land use planning and transportation is a big one), but the energy reporter in me was struck by the absence of peak oil or energy-related costs as primary concerns on the task force’s list of priorities. I guess the heightened concern for energy consumption has not yet migrated across the Columbia with the many Portland businesses and property-tax refugees.

When I asked a member of the regional transportation council why there was no specific mention of energy costs or savings related to new, large transit projects, in the task force’s list of considerations, his response was that the fuel costs were included generally in the estimated operating costs.

I was amazed. Here’s an entire county that’s basically starting from scratch to design its first high capacity transit system — a huge opportunity to get it right from the start — and it’s using the same planning process that it utilized in the 1980s to evaluate the region’s options.

Those crazy Iowans and their gas
by damian | Uncategorized

The Iowa Association of Mucipial Utilties is planning a project to pump high pressure air into underground caverns that they will then release and mix with natural gas to power electrical turbines. As much as I love my home state I’m dubious of a process that, in essence, is forcing a giant underground fart to make up for electrical generation lost on Midwest wind farms when the wind isn’t blowing. My most pressing question is, if it takes energy to pump it down and energy (in the form of natural gas) to release it, is there a net-benefit? Perhaps the money would be better invested in a process I recently heard about being developed in Washington state to direct methane generated by cows into natural gas pipelines.
True, one big issue surrounding wind generation is its intermittant production. In the Northwest we use hydropower from Bonneville to supplement production on wind-less days. The trick is to find a similar renewable resource that can fill the production gaps. Giant farting caverns don’t quite accomplish that. But maybe if the only way to develop wind projects is to do this, it’s worth it overall?
Sowing the wind, reaping the electricity

The Watt-com era
by damian | Uncategorized

The NYTimes had a story today comparing the Internet startup/ dot-com era of the 90’s to the atmosphere surrounding energy start-ups in the Valley, what reporter Matt Richtel called the “watt-com era.” (wish I’d thought of that.) The story mentioned several prominent dot-com investors who, having made their millions in high tech, are switching to “clean tech”.

…high tech has given way to “clean tech,” the shorthand term for innovations that are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. Less fashionable is “green,” a word that suggests a greater interest in the environment than in profit.

Oregon still laments missing the dot-com wave of investments. Our Silicon Forest still doesn’t come near the level of investment and activity in the Silicon Valley. And now, having identified clean energy and sustainable industries as our new economic development strategy, I wonder if we’ll be playing catch-up on clean tech as well. Will the Clean Valley be wiping up with Green Forest ?

Start-up Fervor Shifts to Energy in Silicon Valley

Washington leads again with GHG legislation
by damian | Uncategorized

The Washington state senate today introduced a greenhouse gas emissions reduction bill that calls for the state to revert to 1990 GHG levels by 2020. It comes just weeks after Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed a five-state agreement to set clear GHG reduction targets and a market-based strategy to achieve them. Kulongoski also signed that agreement but we’ve seen no GHG legislation in Oregon yet. When will that happen? I’ve heard from the governor’s office and environmental groups that it’s in the works. And seeing that the city of Portland has already reached the goal set out by Washington state, I also wonder if the governor’s legislation would go a step further to put Oregon in a leadership role for the region.

Biofuels bill passes with flying colors
by damian | Uncategorized

The Oregon House of Reps passed the biofuels bill today. (Watch for my story on the bill in Monday’s DJC.)

The session started with one representative after another standing to voice some reservations, then referring their reservations to the Senate for further debate before ultimately voting in favor of the bill.

Discussions went on for over an hour (about midway through one Rep’s aide leaned over to comment that everything had been said but not everyone had said it).

Everyone seemed to be clamoring to show their support. Only one Representative stood to say she would not be voting for the bill: Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Keizer.

“I’m definitely all for biofuels and renewable energy, in fact I have a PV, a photovoltaic system on the roof of my business and I would really like to support this bill 100 percent but there are some things that need to be fixed. I’m going to withold my support at this time and hopefully it will get fixed on the Senate side,” Thatcher said.

Now the bill goes to Senate committee. I’ll be watching to see which issues the Senate takes up — if they take on all the issues mentioned on the floor of the house today, it could take a while to reach a vote.