Oregon's State Energy Program (SEP) impacts the economy and environment by reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions while funding a broad range of activities for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. These activities help reduce demand for fossil fuels and imported energy while improving energy security and protecting Oregonians against price spikes.
Oregon is a pioneer in offering tax credits to homeowners. These incentives help reduce energy consumption and save money. In 2010, thanks to SEP funding, the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) issued nearly 77,000 Residential Energy Tax Credits saving more than $4 million in energy costs for Oregonians.
Activities historically funded by SEP include residential tax credits for premium efficient appliances and other qualified purchases such as efficient HVAC, water heating systems, renewable energy systems and alternatively fueled vehicles. However, due to state budget constraints, recent legislation eliminated appliances and alternatively fueled vehicles from the program.
SEP also serves the public building sector providing audits and retrofits in K-12 school districts, higher education, and state agency buildings. In addition, SEP supports energy efficiency retrofits in the private sector and transportation initiatives such as infrastructure development of electric plug-in hybrid vehicles.
SEP has helped fund more than $11 million of projects in 60 school districts across Oregon in the past two years. SEP funds paid for lighting upgrades, window replacements, HVAC improvements and biomass boiler installations. SEP funded projects in large urban school districts and small rural school districts. The projects resulted in enhanced learning environments for students and teachers and helped budget constrained school districts reduce their energy bills. In addition, contractors benefited from the retrofit work.
The SEP program paid for energy audits in 101 school districts participating in the Governor's School Energy Audit Initiative, a priority for Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. The schools are served by Oregon's smaller consumer-owned electric utilities and Idaho Power in rural Eastern Oregon. The audits provided work for 11 audit firms and included student-auditors from Lane Community College who needed the on-the-job experience to graduate from the college's Energy Management Program. The audits provide the school districts with recommended energy efficiency projects and detailed information to obtain funding.
SEP funded a number of waste-to-energy projects, another priority for Governor Kitzhaber. Biomass boilers were installed in several public schools and a district hospital. One SEP project funded a private sector waste processing facility that used aerobic digestion, biological and chemical treatment and composting. SEP funds helped pay for a cover to capture and disperse the odorous methane gas. By installing the cover, the company avoided increasing aeration with more powerful aerators that would have increased its electrical use from $2,500 per month to $10,000 per month. SEP funds helped avoid increased energy costs as well as saving a local business from potentially closing down its operation.
ODOE used SEP funds to partner with the Oregon Department of Transportation to add eight electric vehicle charging stations along the southern Interstate-5 corridor as part of the West Coast Green Highway project. ODOE used SEP funds to partner with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to revitalize their Woodstove Change-Out Program in areas of the state targeted for their poor air quality. ODOE also partnered with the Oregon Department of Agriculture to help Oregon's important agri-business install and operate more efficient irrigation systems to save energy and reduce water usage.
SEP represents an important investment in Oregon's energy and economic future. These funds will continue to help Oregon expand the impact and success of SEP through innovation in energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities.