Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oregon's five hot areas in energy

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.)

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