Capital Press 5/23/13
SALEM -- One down, 87,212 to go.
Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, has kicked off a petition drive
to place an initiative before voters that calls for the
state to recognize hydropower as a renewable energy source.
Petition supporters need to submit 87,213
valid signatures to the Secretary of State by July 3, 2014,
for the initiative to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.
In a small ceremony in his office at the
Capitol May 23, Smith was the first to sign the petition.
State law requires large utilities to
generate 25 percent of their energy from renewable resources
by the year 2025. Hydropower facilities in operation prior
to Jan. 1, 1995, are not classified as renewable energy.
Only new hydropower facilities, wind, solar and geothermal
meet the renewable energy classification.
"I would argue that hydroelectric is the
cleanest power source in the state of Oregon," Smith said.
"And I think when the voters of Oregon have an opportunity
to look at the Affordable Renewable Energy Act, they are
going to agree."
Smith said hydroelectric power, generated
from dams, is the No. 1 source of electricity for Oregon,
providing more than 40 percent of the state's electricity.
In some regions, such as his Eastern Oregon
district, hydropower can make up as much as 80 percent of a
utility's energy portfolio, he said.
Classifying hydropower as a renewable energy
source would help keep rates down for homeowners and
industrial users, he said, because utilities wouldn't be
forced to buy more expensive power categorized as renewable.
"This is the right thing to do for the state
of Oregon, for building our economy, for supporting
agriculture, for supporting industry, but most importantly,
for supporting mom and pop in their home as they look at
their power rates to try and keep power affordable for all
Oregonians," Smith said.
Hydroelectric power currently costs about 3
to 3 1/2 cents a kilowatt-hour, Smith said. "If you look at
wind energy or solar, it is significantly higher. It is
usually 12 to 14 cents, all the way up to 19 to 21 to 22
cents, depending on the renewable source.
"I think it is a fair argument that hyrdro is
just as renewable as wind or solar," Smith said.
"I'm not denegrating wind or solar," he said.
"I think there is a place for all energy. But the reality
is, we need to make sure that hydro gets even
Smith said he will start the signature drive
by bringing the petition to his counterparts in the
"And I'm hoping that many Democrats will
cross party lines in joining me as well," Smith said.