The recent power outages in India, where demand for electricity outstripped supply, made me curious to learn more about where the electricity we all rely on here in Oregon comes from. In my search, I came across the Oregon Department of Energy’s (ODOE) interactive website "Where does Oregon’s energy come from?" In addition to providing information on what resources (coal, hydro power, natural gas, renewables, etc.) are used to generate our electricity, the site also shows the resource mix for the state’s utilities (PGE, Pacific Power, and 37 investor-owned utilities) as well as where the generation facilities are located.
One of the reasons Oregon’s demand/supply equation is headed in a sustainable direction is our penchant for thrift which has resulted in energy policies and energy codes that support efficiency. In fact, energy conservation has been part of the state’s building code as far back as 1979. Oregon has been consistently ranked in the top tier of states by the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE).
The NW Power and Conservation Council has long advocated that efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest and quickest energy resource to meet the growing demand. Investments in efficiency are definitely more cost effective for Oregonians. On an individual level, investments in energy efficient homes and appliances result in lower monthly utility bills. On a statewide level, a focus on efficiency reduces the need to build expensive new power plants, the cost of which are off-set with rate increases which ultimately has negative effects on everyone’s bottom line.
Despite the fact that building codes are becoming more efficient with each new code cycle, the demand for electricity continues to grow largely because we are plugging in more appliances and devices that are not regulated by codes. Governor Kitzhaber’s 10-year Energy Action Plan may build on past successes on energy policy by putting in place short term and longer term strategies that will increase the reliability of our electricity grid and reduce the risk of power outages for future generations of Oregonians.