Oregon House mulls clean-energy jobs fund
By Andy Giegerich
Business Journal staff writer
Tobias Read is sponsoring two bills that would establish the jobs fund.
Oregon's House is mulling measures that would create a fund aimed at creating clean-energy jobs throughout the state.
The Fund for Energy, Jobs and Innovation, which the House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development is shaping for a possible referral to the full House and Senate, would collect as much as $16 million from utility payments. The money could come from a "clean energy economic development charge" that public utilities would steer directly to the fund.
The Oregon Innovation Council would oversee the fund and steer it toward developing clean energy companies.
If the fund is approved, Oregon’s business development department would issue bonds that back the program.
The clean energy field includes such nascent power-generating modes as wind, solar, wave and geothermal.
“Oregon is a natural laboratory and as the pressing need to address energy security and independence grows, Oregon has the opportunity to solidify our role as a leader in the field,” said Rep. Tobias Read, the Beaverton Democrat who's sponsoring two bills that would essentially establish the fund.
Doing so could both attract star researchers and other employers to the state while yielding top-flight companies, he added.
Business representatives and lobbyists speaking about the fund at a March 21 hearing were split on the notion.
Danelle Romain, who represents the Oregon People’s Utility District Association, believes ratepayers would balk at any potential hikes.
“We’re willing to work to find a proposal everyone can live with,” she said. “But our condition is that we need to control costs so that our rate doesn’t skyrocket. When it does, it gets passed down to ratepayers as well as the utilities.”
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