Energy Trust of Oregon
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Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon that helps utility customers in Oregon benefit from efficient energy use and generating renewable energy . Energy Trust offers services, cash incentives and other energy solutions to customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas in Oregon and customers of NW Natural in Washington.
In 1999, the Oregon Legislature passed an electric industry restructuring law, SB 1149, with the intent of establishing a stable, consistent funding source for residential, commercial and industrial electric efficiency, renewable energy and market transformation programs. The legislation requires the state’s largest investor-owned electric utilities to collect a 3 percent public purpose charge and authorized the Oregon Public Utility Commission, OPUC, to direct a portion of those funds to an independent, non-government entity.
In 2000 and 2001, the OPUC and interested parties helped form the nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon. The nonprofit has an independent board of directors and operates consistent with a grant agreement with the OPUC. In 2001, Energy Trust articles of incorporation and bylaws were adopted and the first executive director hired. Energy Trust also has two advisory councils, the Conservation Advisory Council and Renewable Energy Advisory Council, to provide stakeholder perspectives on its programs, budgets and action plans.
Energy Trust began operation in March 2002, charged with investing in cost-effective electric energy efficiency, helping to pay the above-market costs of renewable energy resources, implementing market transformation programs, delivering services with low administrative and program support costs and maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.
Energy Trust is funded by customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas. Customers of all four utilities pay a dedicated percentage of their utility bills to support a variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy services and programs.
As a result of SB 1149, which applies to electric energy, PGE and Pacific Power collect a 3 percent public purpose charge from their customers to support:
- Energy conservation in K-12 schools delivered through school districts
- Low-income housing energy assistance delivered through Oregon Housing and Community Services
- Energy efficiency, renewable energy and market transformation programs for residential and business customers delivered through Energy Trust, an independent, third-party
Funding for natural gas efficiency comes from public purpose charges paid by Oregon customers of NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas. This funding is provided pursuant to settlement agreements in OPUC proceedings. Energy Trust administers the funds through contracts established with NW Natural in 2003 and Cascade Natural Gas in 2006. In 2009, through an agreement with NW Natural and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, Energy Trust also began serving NW Natural's customers in Washington.
In 2007, the Oregon Legislature passed the Oregon Renewable Energy Act, SB 838. Through the legislation, the collection of the 3 percent public purpose charge was extended from 2012 to 2026, and PGE and Pacific Power were allowed to seek additional electric efficiency funding above the 3 percent public purpose charge with the goal of avoiding the need to purchase more expensive electricity. Energy Trust receives supplemental funds authorized by the legislation.
As part of its oversight of Energy Trust, the OPUC adopted performance measures against which to benchmark Energy Trust's performance. OPUC performance measures are updated periodically.
- Electric efficiency. Save at least 47 average megawatts, aMW, of electricity annually at a levelized cost of no more than 3.9 cents per kilowatt hour.
- Gas efficiency. Save at least 4.6 million annual therms of natural gas annually at a levelized cost of no more than 57 cents per therm.
- Renewable resource development. Report annually on project and market development assistance provided, including the number of projects supported, milestones met and documentation of results from a market and technology perspective. Obtain at least 0.66 aMW in installed generation of net-metered standard projects, including solar and small wind. For non-solar custom projects, the three-year rolling average incentive is not to exceed $40/allocated MWh. Report sources of funding and the selection criteria for innovative and custom solar projects.
- Financial integrity. Earn an unqualified audit opinion.
- Program delivery efficiency. Keep administrative and program support costs below 9 percent of annual revenues.
- Customer satisfaction. Achieve greater than 85 percent satisfaction rates for customers’ interactions with program representatives and overall satisfaction, as measured by surveys.
- Benefit/cost ratios. Report the benefit/cost ratio for conservation acquisition programs based on the utility system perspective and societal perspective; report any significant mid-year changes in benefit/cost performance in quarterly reports.
Energy Trust provides the OPUC with quarterly and annual reports measuring actual performance against the target metrics. Energy Trust also maintains detailed goals for energy savings and generation in its Five Year Strategic Plan.
In general, Energy Trust operates its programs through contracts with service providers. A volunteer, non-stakeholder board of directors oversees Energy Trust management, provides strategic and policy direction and approves the organization’s budget and major expenditures. The board carries out its oversight through two advisory councils.
Energy Trust offers cash incentives for a variety of energy-efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems for homes, businesses, industrial facilities, agricultural operations and public and nonprofit buildings. Other assistance provided includes information, services and technical assistance to help ratepayers identify and prioritize projects that fit their budget and goals. Incentives and assistance are offered through the following program categories:
Home Energy Solutions
- Existing homes and mobile homes
- New homes and manufactured homes
- ENERGY STAR® products: clothes washers, refrigerators, freezers and compact fluorescent light bulbs
- Solar electric and solar water heating systems
Business Energy Solutions
- Existing buildings, including multifamily
- New buildings, including multifamily
- Industrial buildings and processes
- Agricultural operations
- Energy from renewable sources such as solar, organic waste and wind
Renewable Energy Solutions
- Solar electric, solar water heating and solar pool heating
- Wind power generation from single turbines to community scale
- Biopower from wood waste, landfill and wastewater gas, manure and other organic sources
- Other sources, including hydropower and geothermal
- Oregon Public Utility Commission. "Restructuring Law SB1149". Oregon.gov. State of Oregon. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- Oregon Legislative Assembly. "Senate Bill 838". Oregon Renewable Anergy Act. State of Oregon. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- Energy Trust of Oregon. "Who We Are". energytrust.org. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. "Energy Trust of Oregon". DSIRE. US Department of Energy. Retrieved 5 January 2012.