Earlier this week, I attended Climate Solutions’ Business Briefing on the Governor’s Proposed Climate Change Policy. Hosted by Gerding Edlen, the briefing offered a snapshot of the Governor’s legislative agenda for 2009 and beyond, and gave the sustainable business community the opportunity to offer feedback on what needs to happen to move the plans forward.

The Governor’s Climate Change Agenda (the “Agenda”) covers four major areas: greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reductions, renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency. Some highlights follow.


Greenhouse Gas Reductions


There are three major components to the GHG reduction plan: a cap and trade program, an emissions performance standard, and an authorization of the development of Environmental Quality Commission (“EQC”) regulations. Included in the proposed 2009 legislation is the authorization for Oregon’s participation in a regional cap and trade program. Once authorized, the plan calls for a statewide public process to gather input on how best to structure the program. The program design recommendations will be brought back to the 2011 Legislature for approval, with the regional program scheduled to go into effect in 2012.


Renewable Energy


In the renewable energy realm, the Agenda includes a solar feed-in tariff, a beefed-up Business Energy Tax Credit (“BETC”), and initiatives to help the state meet the Governor’s goal of 100% renewable energy for state government. Following Germany’s lead, which has had amazing success with the solar energy incentive program known as a “feed-in tariff”, the Governor’s proposed legislation will create a production incentive pilot program to help pay for the electricity produced by a solar project. 


The Governor also plans to create a BETC Energy Fund to offer up-front project funding. As with the Cultural Trust program, this proposal will enable citizens to donate money into the fund and take a tax credit on the donation.


Sustainable Transportation


Thinking about buying a Prius? If you are hoping for a state tax credit, you may want to revise your wish list. The Governor’s plan calls for a shift toward vehicles that produce less carbon and that have not yet permeated the market, such as plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. In addition, the Agenda would authorize the EQC to develop and phase in a low-carbon fuel standard, that will require fuel providers to lower the average carbon intensity of fuels sold by 10%. The plan also includes an Expanded Transportation Options program and the development of a least carbon planning model.


Energy Efficiency


Because energy efficiency investments are such a cost-effective way to reduce both our energy demand and GHG emissions, a large chunk of the Agenda is devoted to this area. The Governor has put forth several proposals, such as the creation of energy performance certificates, the expansion of the BETC for energy efficiency investments, and the authorization of bonding authority for local governments to finance energy efficiency projects.


Proposed legislation seeks to establish a goal of net-zero emissions homes and buildings by 2030. As a start, the legislation seeks to increase energy efficiency in commercial and residential building codes by 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively. The Agenda also calls for expanding the BETC for industrial energy efficiency projects from 35 percent to 50 percent of the total project costs, up to $20 million. 


The various pieces of the Governor’s Agenda will add teeth to existing state programs aimed at addressing climate change, and help keep Oregon at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship in the sustainable business realm.