Clean energy already exists in Portland, such as how waste turns to energy at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant. Yet Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler argues that more must be done.(
By Ted Wheeler
With a clear vision for the future, we can avoid being left to the whims of fate. A solid strategy is especially important when it comes to confronting a slow-moving threat to our city and to the Oregon way of life. This week, the City of Portland will step up to the challenge of climate change with an ambitious plan to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
There is a lot of work to be done, but it’s more about the will than the way. We already have the technology to run our lives on clean energy: solar and wind, electric vehicles, and exciting innovations like turning waste to energy at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant project.
But the switch to clean energy will not happen on its own at the speed necessary to guarantee our kids and future generations a livable world. That’s where our will comes in. With Portland joining more than two dozen U.S. cities committing to 100 percent renewable energy, our local economy will benefit from more good-paying jobs, households will realize energy bill savings, and our air will be cleaner.
Leading cities and states will thrive in the fast-growing, low-carbon economy. It’s happening now. The downtown Portland Fire Station will soon harness solar energy and use a battery to store it, saving the city money on energy bills and allowing emergency responders to work through a major outage. In Southern Oregon, they’re heating schools using the warmth inside the Earth at a fraction of the cost of oil or electricity. In Bend, one of the state’s first community solar projects allows renters and people who can’t install panels on their homes to reap the benefits of renewable power.
Transitioning our households, businesses and government operations in Portland and Multnomah County to 100 percent clean energy by 2050 is achievable, but it will require strong policy guidance and innovative new sources of funding. It is time for Oregon to put a statewide cap and price on climate pollution to fund our clean energy solutions.
The Clean Energy Jobs bill (House Bill 2135) being considered by the Oregon State Legislature would raise more than $700 million per year, by requiring the largest emitters to pay for what they put into our air. It incentivizes lowering emissions while creating proceeds to re-invest into communities across the state. It would put Oregonians to work improving energy efficiency in homes and businesses to save households money, build affordable housing near transit, install more solar on rooftops and invest in more transportation options.
Clean energy provides a unique opportunity in rural and urban communities alike by training Oregonians with new skills for projects that must be built in our communities and can’t be outsourced. Consider work going on in East Portland’s Cully Neighborhood, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the state. A partnership of nonprofits and businesses collaborated, raised funds and sweat equity to help retrofit homes for low-income families. The work was done by community workers and minority-owned firms, and the homes now use less energy and save families money. Clean Energy Jobs funds could replicate this kind of partnership in communities from Brookings to Baker City, Beaverton to Burns.
From Portland’s ban on large, fossil fuel terminals to Oregon’s Clean Fuels Standard and the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Act, our local actions send ripples through the energy landscape nationwide. At a time when leadership on climate protection and clean energy are more vital than ever, Portland and Oregon must step up and lead.
Ted Wheeler is the mayor of Portland.
A flower and message are shown at a memorial for the victims who were fatally stabbed while trying to stop a man from shouting anti-Muslim insults at two young women on a Portland light-rail train.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler