In a letter released today, Mayor Sam Adams criticizes power giant Portland General Electric for keeping coal as a major part of its newly-crafted business plan. The company's Integrated Resource Plan (downloadable here) sets PGE's goals for the next two years and makes some movement toward increasing renewable energy options. But the plan also increases the share of PGE's electricity generated from coal. "I strongly urge you to evaluate phasing out Boardman [coal power plant] and the procurement of coal-produced electricity by 2020 at the latest," writes Adams in his letter (pdf).

Boardman - Dirty Power for Portlanders!
  • via Gas 2.0
  • Boardman - Dirty Power for Portlanders!

The city aiming to become the nation's greenest is currently fueled 24 percent by coal. Another 26 percent of Portland's energy comes from natural gas. "Coal is dirty and an anathema to Portland's values," says Adams. "On the other hand, we have to have a functioning economy." The mayor happened to spend this 4th of July in Boardman and wants PGE to work on transitioning the people working in the coal plant into renewable energy technologies or other green jobs.

In a Portland Tribune editorial accompanying the release of the plan, PGE CEO Jim Piro argued that the plant must be kept open, but could be cleaner. "At PGE, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of generating electricity by capturing more energy efficiency and adding more renewable power sources to our energy mix. We also understand that the system can’t power up and down with the wind or sunshine — it has to be there when the electricity is needed," wrote Piro.

Adams does not have any legal say over PGE's future plans, but he hopes to utilize his "bully pulpit" to get the company to commit to closing Boardman and investing in greater energy efficiency, in collaboration with Portland Clean Energy Works.

The Oregon Public Utilities Commission has to approve PGE's plan early next year and Adams' criticism could possibly push the company to revamp its business model. "I want to engage with them and come up with a business model for investing more in energy efficiency, clean energy and eco-districts." Adams says expanding clean energy will be better for PGE's business than sticking with its current coal and natural gas mix, though he admits he has not seen that type of business model work on the scale of a city (except with nuclear power, which Adams isn't interested in). "But this is Portland," says Adams, noting that 25 years ago people said Portland's recently-achieved car travel reduction goals were impossible.