Rooted in Conservation
Oregonians have been taking action to use energy wisely since the early 1970s. Through five decades of progressive state and regional policies, public and private investments and broad-based public support, Oregon has become a national leader in energy innovation. Energy Trust has played a key role in that leadership, accelerating energy savings and small-scale renewable generation for the state.
The Pacific Northwest Comprehensive Review
In 1996, the governors of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana convened a comprehensive review of the region’s electricity industry. Out of that review came a recommendation that utilities dedicate a percentage of revenues to cost-effective conservation, renewable resource development and low-income weatherization.
Using the regional review as a blueprint, Oregon lawmakers, industry groups and consumer advocacy organizations collaborated to boost the state’s investment in conservation and renewable energy.
Original Funding Legislation
In 1999, as part of electric industry deregulation legislation through Senate Bill 1149, the state required Oregon’s two largest electric utilities—PGE and Pacific Power—to collect a 3% public purpose charge from their customers to support energy conservation in K-12 schools, low-income housing energy assistance, and energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for residential and business customers.
The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) was authorized to direct how the funds for the energy efficiency and renewable energy programs would be spent, including through a nongovernmental entity.
Energy Trust of Oregon was created as an independent, public purpose nonprofit to lead the way.
Energy Trust as a Public Purpose Charge Administrator
In 2001, Energy Trust entered into a grant agreement with the OPUC to invest the majority of revenue from the public purpose charge in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
The Energy Trust board of directors set Energy Trust’s bylaws and articles of incorporation.
Energy Trust began to deliver energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives in 2002 to meet Oregonians’ energy needs with the cheapest and cleanest options available. Overseen by a volunteer board of directors, Energy Trust reports directly to the OPUC. Read more about our relationship with the OPUC >
Subsequently, natural gas companies contracted with Energy Trust to provide gas efficiency services to their customers. These arrangements stemmed from settlement agreements reached in OPUC proceedings:
- 2003: NW Natural in Oregon
- 2006: Cascade Natural Gas
- 2009: NW Natural in Washington, and its large commercial and industrial customers (non-transport)
- 2017: Avista
In 2007, Oregon’s Renewable Energy Act (SB 838) allowed PGE and Pacific Power to capture additional, cost-effective electric efficiency above what could be obtained through the 3% charge. SB 838 also extended the sunset date on the original 3% public purpose charge from 2012 to 2026 and capped the size of renewable energy projects Energy Trust could support to no more than 20 megawatts.
Read more about our funding >
New Legislation Expands Our Reach
In 2021, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 3141, the public purpose charge modernization law that extends and expands Energy Trust’s purview. The law reaffirmed the value of the public purpose charge while modernizing it to fit the needs of utility customers and today’s energy system.
First, the law transitions energy-efficiency funding into ratemaking processes, effectively removing the sunset on efficiency funding. It expands what qualifies for renewable energy funding to include projects that improve reliability and resiliency of the electric grid. And it sets a requirement that at least 25% of renewable energy revenues be used for activities, resources and technologies that serve low- and moderate-income customers, including for technologies that do not have above-market costs. This will enable Energy Trust to develop more offers and dedicate more funds to offers that meet the needs of customers with low and moderate incomes.
Last, HB 3141 includes a requirement for the OPUC to set equity metrics for funds invested by Energy Trust.