Sean Penrith, The Climate Trust
As published by Sustainable Business Oregon – December 30, 2014
I had the pleasure of attending the presentation of our third five-year report by our director of programs, Sheldon Zakreski, to the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) in Hermiston late November.
EFSC is the body responsible for overseeing The Climate Trust’s activities on behalf of regulated energy facilities under Oregon’s Carbon Dioxide Standard.
In 1997, the state of Oregon took a bold step when it passed the first legislation in the nation to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
The Oregon Carbon Dioxide Standard (“Oregon Program”) requires new fossil-fired energy generating facilities to meet a carbon dioxide emissions standard that is 17 percent below the best available technology. The Trust, a mission-driven nonprofit that specializes in climate solutions, is responsible for stewarding the carbon fund that is used to acquire carbon offsets, and to select and manage pollution reduction projects on behalf of these utilities.
To date, Oregon utilities have entrusted The Climate Trust with approximately $24.3 million to purchase emission reductions from projects that avoid, sequester, or displace greenhouse gas emissions. This highly successful model has been replicated with new power plants in Massachusetts, Montana, and Washington State.
Our five-year report, “Plowing New Pathways: Developing Quality Offsets in a Maturing Market,” commends Oregon for having the foresight to enact a law that helps promote in-state economic development of innovative projects that mitigate climate change and preserve the environment for generations to come.
Overall, the Oregon Program offset portfolio has funded 26 projects that are anticipated to reduce almost 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2); the equivalent of over 400,000 homes’ electricity use for one year. Sixteen of the 26 Oregon Program projects have been developed in the state, providing Oregonians with a greater share of the benefits; including investment in clean energy, innovative technology, and new jobs, as well as real, measured, and permanent reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
The Climate Trust has directed $0.51 of every dollar in Oregon Program funds it has committed to in-state projects demonstrating that carbon pricing policies can play an important role in promoting local economic development especially vital in rural areas.
Sheldon was spot on when he shared the perspective at the EFSC presentation that,
“The Oregon Program’s mechanism to provide funding to a state-recognized nonprofit is an intriguing option that Oregon and state policymakers should examine in-depth and strongly consider when developing and implementing new low carbon policies.
Oregon’s approach to giving its new electric facilities flexibility in how to mitigate carbon emissions has stood the test of time when one considers the many international, federal, regional and state efforts on carbon that have come and gone in the last 17 years.”
The Trust often engages with projects at the beginning of their development, which allows for direct funding of new, innovative project types that are not being pursued by the rest of the carbon market. We also work with project types for which there are not yet existing methodologies, requiring technical expertise in developing their own protocols, and paving the way for the rest of the market to follow.
One such notable project is a conservation partnership with Ducks Unlimited, aimed at preserving at-risk grasslands and reducing carbon emissions.
Chevrolet agreed to purchase these first-of-their-kind verified carbon offsets from this type of project—securing nearly 40,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases. The project is based off a new carbon accounting protocol housed with the American Carbon Registry that was supported by the USDA through a Conservation Innovation Grant.
The Oregon Program we administer is a success story that should be a source of pride for Oregonians. The legacy of this landmark legislation includes the carbon emission reductions that will continue to be realized for decades to come; the additional environmental, economic, and social benefits that offset projects provide; as well as the sharing of important lessons that are helping advance climate policy and the carbon market in the U.S.