Oregon utility seeks hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy


States and cities across the United States are increasing their commitments to renewable energy. And, while Hawaii is the only state to go whole hog and mandate 100% renewables, 69 U.S. municipalities have either pledged to reach 100% renewable energy, or in the case of six, already achieved that goal.

A year ago both Portland, Oregon and the county in which it is located set 100% renewable energy goals. Following up on that, earlier this week, the region’s public utility issued a request for proposals (RFP) for “100 average megawatts” of renewable energy, as a major step to reach that target.

“Average megawatt” is a term that is easy to misinterpret. Portland General Electric (PGE) is actually seeking enough renewable energy capacity to provide 876,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) annually, which would represent the output of a 100 MW facility providing electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every week of the year. Not even nuclear power plants do that.

The RFP sets a minimum project capacity of 10 MW. According to PGE’s estimates of solar productivity in Oregon, if the entire solicitation were filled with utility-scale solar this would mean 500-620 MW of projects on single-axis tracking, depending on where in the state these projects are located.

The RFP is open to a range of technologies including solar, wind, biomass, landfill gas, or hydroelectric power, but as has been the case with other RFPs is likely to be filled with wind and solar.

While Oregon has deployed far more wind than solar to date, the state’s solar market has been expanding rapidly in recent years, with many projects taking advantage of the ample sun in the arid lands west of the Cascade Mountains. Given the falling cost of solar and the presence of large national developers in Oregon, solar bids are likely to be competitive.

PGE is also open to a variety of business arrangements, including not only power contracts with independent developers, but also build-own-transfer deals. Bids will be assessed on “the project’s economic competitiveness, project specific commercial and performance risks, and portfolio economic risk.” Non-price factors will represent 40% of the evaluation criteria.

Benchmark bids are due on June 8 and RFP proposals on June 15. PGE currently plans to sign contract with winning bidders by the end of the year. Projects selected under the RFP need to be online by 2021.