Blog

Apr
13
Oregon could get fed backing for home energy scores
by damian | Uncategorized

Gov. Kulongoski was ahead of the curve when he proposed SB 79, requiring a home energy performance rating for every house on the market. The L.A. Times reported this weekend that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan wants an energy score for homes on the market and corresponding mortgage incentives to make energy efficiency improvements. He made the same comparison Kulongoski did, that knowing the efficiency of your home should be as easy as knowing the gas mileage of your car. That’s good news for Oregon. The state can require as many energy certificates as it wants, but without sufficient buy-in from mortgage lenders or other financing programs, the retrofits and energy savings won’t happen.

Apr
09
Down come the ethanol giants
by damian | Uncategorized


Nigel Jaquiss reports in WWeek on the implosion of Cascade Grain’s new $200 million ethanol plant in Clatskanie and the political process that pushed millions of taxpayer dollars to be lost in the failed plant. The article, “Corndoggle,” (ha!) points out that Oregon lawmakers essentially created a market for ethanol in the state with the renewable fuel standard then loaned money to Cascade Grain for the plant’s construction only to have it close after operating for just seven months. The company blames the spike in the price of corn for its demise, but Jaquiss sites unnamed sources that say the plant was shoddily built and its product was loaded with sulfates.

It’s interesting to point out that Pacific Ethanol (Nasdaq GM:PEIX), which owns the other giant ethanol plant built in Boardman in response to the RFS, is also currently in default on their construction loans. They operated profitably in 2007 but reported a $146,000 loss in 2008 and now have until the end of April to renegotiate their loans, according to a March 31 report to investors. Its chairman and CEO have pumped $2 million into the company to keep it afloat and their annual report is optimistic they can ride out the downturn as their competitors (see above) fall by the wayside.

Apr
07
Oregon’s five hot areas in energy
by damian | Uncategorized

People often ask me what the hottest topics are in energy right now and what I’m covering. Here’s a short list of what I think are the top five areas generating the most buzz in Oregon and a few reasons why. Oregon’s focus isn’t much different than the national focus, but Oregon has its own unique spin. I’m interested to know - what are your top 5??

1. Smart Grid

The state’s leading energy consultants, high-tech companies and utilities are all looking for opportunities in this emerging sector. The Clean Technology Alliance recently held a brain-storming session for Portland companies interested in tapping the $4.5 billion federal stimulus allocation for smart grid. And Portland State University is scrambling to become the center for thought, innovation and collaboration in the space with a graduate-level research seminar and spring smart grid conference.

2. Energy Efficiency

Some $33.5 million will be available through the Oregon Department of Energy for energy efficiency retrofits and Housing and Community Services for low-income weatherization. Senate Bill 79 would mandate minimum levels of efficiency and implement a rating system for all homes on the market in Oregon. And Portland will begin a pilot project for on-bill financing of energy efficiency projects in select neighborhoods.

3. Electric Vehicles

Portland is apparently competing with San Francisco now for the title of EV King, writes clean car blog Gas 2.0. Gov. Kulongoski is making a concerted effort to attract EV manufacturers to the state and the legislature is considering HB 3253 that would provide a $5,000 tax credit toward the purchase of plug-in hybrids.

4. Sustainable Communities

The newly-founded Portland + Oregon Sustainability Institute is pushing the eco-block concept of sustainable urban planning, a gray water recycling bill is in the legislature and the city is adopting a district energy plan in Portland’s North Pearl District.

5. Cap and Trade

Businesses and environmental advocates are watching SB 80 closely. RePower Oregon recently announced a new proposal to drop the trade part of the cap and trade bill and establish a fund for offset projects instead. The state’s growing sustainable business cluster is counting on the state to put a price on carbon to stay competitive and there’s concern that legislators will drop the ball on this one. On the flip side, large emissions-heavy industries are pushing to kill the bill, arguing it would hurt the state’s already damaged economy. (See my Green Inc. article on the economics of regional cap and trade here.)

Apr
06
SE Portland Block Plans District Solar Heat
by damian | Uncategorized


Neighbors on one entire block in Southeast Portland’s Sunnyside neighborhood are on board to install a district solar thermal system to heat their homes.

Only a handful of the 14 houses on the block get enough sunlight to power a solar system. But those choice spots can get enough energy to heat the whole block, said John Sorenson, president of MidTech Energy and a consultant on the project. So the neighbors, inspired by MidTech’s Sunnyside district energy plan, which has stalled due to lack of funding, decided to pool their resources and install their own solar thermal system. (They’re also seeking funding from the city for upfront capital costs and will need city approval to install it.)

They’ll start with full energy efficiency retrofits in every house on the block to ensure the renewable power doesn’t go to waste. Then the fences will come down and they’ll dig up their backyards to install a series of interconnecting pipes. Solar panels on a central plant and on a few neighbors’ roofs will then heat the water, which is pumped to heat exchange systems in every house on the block.

Instead of rebuilding the fences, the neighbors also plan to install a bioswale down the center of the block for rainwater catchment and permaculture. Sorenson hopes the project will serve as a pilot for the Sunnyside district energy plan.

See my past coverage in the Daily Journal of Commerce here and here.

Apr
02
one more to test
by damian | Post

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Mar
26
Oregon gets extra $33M for energy efficiency
by damian | Uncategorized

Oregon will receive an additional $33,501,500 for local energy efficiency improvements under federal stimulus bill block grants announced today by the U.S. Department of Energy. The grants come on top of the $80 million already headed to Oregon for weatherization and other energy projects. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation block grants will provide $9,595,500 to the state Department of Energy. The rest of the total will be doled out to cities , counties and tribes, including $5.6 million to Portland, $1.5 million to Salem, $3.2 million to Clackamas County and $2.6 million to Washington County.

In all, the feds will provide $3.2 billion for the national program, which will provide funding for residential and commercial energy efficiency retrofits as well as transportation projects. Money was allocated to states based on population and energy consumption.

The full list of grant allocations in Oregon can be downloaded from the DOE here.

Mar
23
This is the next post.
by damian | Post

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Mar
22
Hello world!
by admin | Post

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Mar
20
PGE considers small hydro projects
by damian | Uncategorized


Portland General Electric is looking into installing turbines in streams, canals and rivers, to help fill its renewable portfolio. The utility was set to meet with Roger Bedard at the Electric Power Research Institute this morning to explore whether such small hydrokinetic projects, essentially underwater wind turbines, make economic sense, said John Esler, PGE’s project manager for hydro licensing.

The decision comes amid the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s call for utilities to boost the nation’s hydro production by 90,000 megawatts in the next 10 or 15 years through upgrades to existing dams and hydrokinetic development. A two-year extension of the production tax credit under the economic recovery act is also good motivation to develop hydrokinetic projects.

The problem is that hydrokinetic technology is about where wind energy was 20 years ago, said FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff in a speech to the Northwest Hydroelectric Association on Wednesday. “It’ll be a matter of economics,” he said.

Mar
09
Thomas Friedman lectures Oregon governor on carbon pricing
by damian | Uncategorized


New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman spoke at noon today at Portland State University about the dual opportunities presented by the climate crisis and financial crisis while Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski listened from the front row. At times, Friedman addressed the governor directly (though not by name), calling on elected officials in general and governors in particular, to institute regulations that put a price on carbon dioxide emissions. The Oregon Legislature is in the midst of a controversial debate over a statewide cap and trade program, which was proposed by the governor but has faced criticism from some industry lobbyists who fear the program would undermine economic growth (see my Green Inc. post from last month on the state’s cap and trade efforts).

Energy technology will be the next great industrial revolution, said Friedman, “but whatever you invent always has to compete against cheaper fuels.” Placing a price on carbon, whether through a carbon tax or a cap and trade system, helps level the playing field for low-carbon technologies, he said, looking directly at the governor. “Without a price signal that makes dirty fuels more expensive, we won’t get a clean, green revolution,” said Friedman.

He then admonished the crowd of some 1,300 students and members of the general public attending the free event to “change your leaders, not your light bulbs” if elected officials aren’t producing the kinds of regulations the green revolution needs to reach mass adoption.