By Natascha Smith, Energy Law Fellow
It’s an exciting time for electricity regulation in Oregon. Under the direction of SB 978, which was passed by the state legislature in 2017, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) is engaging electricity stakeholders, including the general public, to investigate how developing industry trends, technologies, and policy drivers may impact the existing electricity regulatory system. SB 978 does little to restrict the scope of changes the PUC can consider in potentially reforming the regulatory framework applied to electricity in Oregon. Now is the time to place all options on the table and contemplate what changes will help Oregon meet its current electricity goals while allowing room to adapt to changing technologies and policy concerns.
On March 21, stakeholders attended a meeting convened by the PUC in Salem to discuss the state of Oregon’s electricity regulatory system. This was the second of six meetings convened by the PUC, which will ultimately culminate with a report from the PUC to the legislature later this year. At the March meeting, participants were split into groups representing customers, generation and service providers, investor-owned electric utilities, environmental concerns, equity and environmental justice, and the PUC Staff. Each stakeholder group in turn gave presentations responding to questions posed by the PUC about how the current regulatory process worked for their group, what challenges they saw, and what might be missing from the current regulatory structure. While all groups agreed that the current system ensures Oregonians have access to safe and reliable power, each group had unique thoughts on where the system has room for improvement. The stakeholder groups went on to identify areas of consensus and disagreement regarding the effectiveness of the current system at addressing specific areas of concern, such as facilitating competition and promoting environmental objectives.
Despite the technical jargon involved, this review of the electricity regulatory system is a public process. The review calls on all Oregonians to consider whether the current regulatory process achieves the goals important to us, and if not, how we can effectively incentivize the changes we want to see. The public can contribute to this process by attending PUC meetings on SB 978 or by submitting comments via email. If you’re simply interested in seeing how the meetings are conducted or what ideas different stakeholder groups bring to the table, the meetings are available to watch on the PUC website.