Oregon to be Coal-Free by 2020


Photo credit: Tedder via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY

There's currently only one lonely coal-fired power plant in all of Oregon. But by 2020, there will be none -- Portland General Electric Co., which operates the plant, has announced that it will either shutter the 585 megawatt Boardman plant or convert it to burn biomass. In less than 10 years, the state of Oregon will be coal-free.Which is really more symbolic than anything -- Oregonians already gets the vast majority of their electricity from hydropower. Both Washington and Idaho are also primarily powered by hydro as well.

Nonetheless, it's an encouraging development, and one that underscores the ongoing (though too-slow) trend towards incorporating cleaner sources into our energy mix. PGE is making the move far ahead of schedule -- the company is anticipating the costs required to retrofit the Boardman power plant down the line, in order to keep it clean enough to comply with pollution regulations. Reuters explains:

The spokesman said PGE determined it could cost about $500 million to upgrade the plant's emission controls to allow it to continue operating through 2040 and beyond.

But that is too high a price to pay in part due to the uncertainty over what federal and state governments will do to reduce carbon emissions to combat global warming, the spokesman explained. Instead, the spokesman said PGE will spend about $75 million to upgrade the plant and keep it running until 2020.

Regardless of whether or not we have comprehensive energy legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions, utilities recognize that it's only a matter of time until climate change is factored into the national energy equation. The current crop of policymakers may favor fossil fuel industries, and decline to address global warming, but most energy companies are betting it won't always be that way.

A coal-free Oregon is just one step along the pathway to a cleaner energy future.

More on Coal Power in the US
3000 US Coal Power Plants Could be Replaced by Offshore Wind Power
Coal -Fired Power On the Way Out?
China's Closing 31 Gigawatts of Coal Power Plants!

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