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The Battle Over Energy Control
It would take seven Grand Coulee dams to replace natural gas

It was Representative Pam Marsh's (D-Ashland) star performance to pass HB 2021, the decarbonize cap-and-trade bill in the 2021 session. Using virtual meetings to cut off undesired testimony supporting other plans, she passed the bill that sets a target date of 2040 to be 100 percent carbon-free electricity below baseline emissions sold in the state. What is hidden in the bill is the ban on expanding or constructing power plants that burn natural gas or fossil fuels, which makes up 21.1 percent of electric energy consumption in Oregon.

The work group behind the bill advocated for collaboration and partnering for Oregon’s plan to be successful. Natural gas users might ask where the partnering is with their provider. With 2.5 million customers, NW Natural Gas has a large impact.

NW Natural Gas held a webinar for their customers in which they outlined their work to transform organic waste, trash, flushing and food waste into renewable gas. Director of Environmental Policy and Corporate Responsibility at NW Natural Mary Moerlins said they are testing the end use appliances for various gas sources. If forced to use the same infrastructure, they can drive down emissions to zero by 2050. It would seem HB 2021 handicaps their progress.

Oregon led the way by passing SB 98 in 2019 adopting a renewable gas (RNG) program allowing purchase of RNG. The gross for RNG production using thermal gasification technology is about 17.5 percent of Oregon's total yearly use of natural gas reported in 2018. Director of Renewable Resources at NW Natural Anna Chittum reported a growth from 40 to 325 plants nationwide with new technology developments, looking to Denmark and France as examples. Now it seems HB 2021 will stifle that progress.

NW Natural Gas says studies show there is enough RNG to displace all the fossil fuel in the residential sector. RNG could currently replace as much as 20 percent of the imported natural gas. Portland is already contracting with NW Natural to collect biogas emissions from their wastewater treatment plant and convert it to renewable natural gas. Eugene Water Board also started a Smart Energy program for delivery of RNG.

The real problem with cutting back on natural gas development is that gas systems have long-duration storage -- two-and -half times the hydroelectric facilities with about 1,500 times the energy delivered from current large-scale utility batteries. That equals about a two-trillion-dollar battery. Nonhydroelectric renewables is an immediate-use process. Converting wind, solar or hydro to renewable hydrogen to use in natural gas pipelines is being experimented up to 20 percent without causing damage to the current infrastructure.

Oregon is following the path of the Biden Administration. The United States was energy independent until the resources were shut down and now the U.S. is forced to import. Oregon is closing off all coal use, proposes to remove dams producing hydro power, and prevents fossil fuel development, despite new technologies.



Chittum said it would take seven Grand Coulee dams to replace natural gas, plus more infrastructure. It emphasizes the need for all systems of energy, and collaboration for supporting each other. It takes time to see results, something the legislature has not allowed. Oregon Department of Energy latest Biennial Energy Report dated November 1, 2020, evaluated information through 2018. When the legislature implements new programs based on outdated information, it’s cause for concern. Even with 2018 data, it’s evident that no one source can retain stable energy output during heat waves or deep freeze peaks that takes every source at capacity output. The Mist facility was converted into a natural gas storage that is usually refilled from April through September and drawn down between October and March. Natural gas storage enables NW Natural to provide reliable gas service to customers during periods of high gas usage unlike some other forms of energy.

The input from natural gas customers is important for decision makers to consider when they are presented with proposals that could force communities to exclusively depend on the electric grid for all energy needs. The DEQ is conducting rulemaking to establish a new Climate Protection Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, address the effects of climate change, and alleviate burdens for environmental justice impacted communities. Rulemaking public comment period for the draft rules is open until October 25, 2021 at 4:00pm.

--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-10-10 16:21:56Last Update: 2021-10-11 09:47:12

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