Oregon’s First Step Toward Utilities Acquiring Energy Storage

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A new law in Oregon will allow the state to take a first step toward investor-owned utilities acquiring energy storage by 2020.

House Bill 2193 requires investor-owned utilities to procure one or more energy storage projects by 2020, says Dina Dubson Kelley, chief counsel, Renewable Northwest.

“This law will provide valuable experience with storage technologies and lead to better understanding of which storage applications are best suited to the needs of our utilities’ systems.  That experience and understanding will inform future energy policies that provide the greatest environmental and economic advantage to the people of Oregon,” she says.

The utilities — Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp — must submit proposals By Jan. 1, 2017 to procure one or more storage systems sized 5 MWh or higher, says Bill Holmes, a partner at the law firm K&L Gates who specializes in energy issues.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission will now begin developing guidelines for the utilities about what to include in their proposals, he says. The commission needs to examine the potential value of utilities acquiring energy storage technologies and consider different ways the companies can invest in the storage systems, he says.

California’s precedent-setting energy storage mandate inspired the move, says Holmes. Rep. Paul Hovey, D-Eugene, chair of the Oregon House Energy and Environment Committee, introduced the legislation.

In Oregon, energy storage can provides many advantages, says Kelley.

“Energy storage technologies offer numerous benefits both to power producers and the customers they serve,” she says. “Improved storage capacity can help meet periods of peak demand, reduce the need for upgrades to utilities’ transmission and distribution systems, mitigate power outages, and facilitate integration of renewable resources into the grid.

As storage technologies advance, additional benefits will include decreased carbon emissions, a more secure and efficient grid that is less subject to disruption, and creation of more clean energy jobs.

When Hovey first proposed the legislation, people in the energy industry were surprised, says Holmes.

“When the legislation popped up, all of us following energy storage wondered where it had come from. It turned out that Rep. Hovey was inspired by the California law and decided Oregon needed to do something similar,” he says.

While Oregon’s law is a baby step compared to California’s energy storage mandate — requiring 1.3 GW of energy storage by 2020 — it’s an important step that continues Oregon’s reputation as a “green” leader.

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