Oregon has become the first US state to pass laws to rid itself of coal, committing to eliminate the use of coal-fired power by 2035 and to double the amount of renewable energy in the state by 2040.
March 4, 2016 — Legislation passed by the state’s assembly, which will need to be signed into law by Governor Kate Brown, will transition Oregon away from coal, which currently provides around a third of the state’s electricity supply.
At the same time, the state will also require its two largest utilities to increase their share of clean energy, such as solar and wind, to 50% by 2040. Combined with Oregon’s current hydroelectric output, the state will be overwhelmingly powered by low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.
Climate campaigners said the legislation was a landmark moment and showed that the US was moving rapidly towards renewables, despite the temporary block placed by the supreme court on the Obama administration’s clean power plan.
“This historic step forward is the most significant legislative action the US has taken since the Paris climate agreement,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Oregon’s climate leadership is an example for states across the country.”
State Republicans claimed the bill would drive up energy bills for households while resulting in a negligible impact upon the environment. “You don’t have to be a climate denier to dislike this bill,” said state senator Ted Ferrioli.
Pacific Power, one of the largest utilities in Oregon, said the shift would raise costs by less than 1% a year until 2030 and would reduce carbon pollution by 30m metric tons.
“Maintaining the affordability and the reliability of the electric grid is very important to us,” said Scott Bolton, Pacific Power’s vice-president of external affairs.
“Working through the legislative process with a diverse range of stakeholders, we have meaningfully advanced Oregon’s clean energy future in a way that is both workable and affordable.”
Oregon, which has a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, from 2005 levels, follows the UK’s decision to phase out coal-fired power within 10 years and China’s ban on all coal mine approvals over the next three years.
No similar edicts have been issued in the US until now, although Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has said he aimed to wind down coal power plants in the state by 2020.