Gov. Kitzhaber's energy plan seeks big ideas

Gov. John Kitzhaber has asked his energy plan task force to come up with some bold ideas.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has asked his energy plan task force to come up with some bold ideas.

Governor John Kitzhaber has corralled a group of top thinkers in energy and conservation to draft a 10-year plan for Oregon’s energy future.

The move likely promises new gains in energy efficiency, a road map to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and streamlined siting requirements for new renewable energy projects.

It also looks to promote strong central management of climate and energy goals at the state, a unique approach in Oregon government that will likely consolidate its current approach to energy management.

For now, the plan is a series of recommendations from small groups, dubbed design teams, to the governor. Sent to Kitzhaber and his staff Dec. 16, they outline pie-in-the-sky goals for siting new energy facilities, lowering transportation emissions, boosting energy efficiency, mixing energy resources and streamlining governance.

“We have given the design team a pretty free set of boundaries,” said Michael Jung as policy director for Silver Spring Networks and a founding board member of Smart Grid Oregon. “There is not much that’s been taken off the table.”

Jung has been tapped to chair the 10 Year Energy Plan Task Force, as the collection of design teams is called.

“We are trying to get big, bold ideas,” he said.

Exactly what bold ideas have come forward so far is unclear. Though the task force isn’t shrouded in secrecy, Oregon’s traditional stakeholder process has been left at the door. Instead, insiders say, the idea is to put the most expansive ideas on the table before a public review.

Only the governor, key staff, Jung and a team of vice chairs –– Andrea Durbin, executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council; Kevin Lynch, director of policy and regulation for Iberdrola Renewables; and Roy Hemmingway, a former Oregon PUC chair who helped found the Northwest Power Planning Council and a long-time adviser to Kitzhaber –– will see them all. They’ll mine suggestions for overlap and gaps, and push the most viable toward a focused plan. Specific charges for more work will head back to the teams this month, with a draft plan to be made by spring. The public will have six weeks to weigh in on the backside before a final plan sets the stage for the 2013 legislative session next summer.

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Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.

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