Clean up your electric supply—today!
By far the easiest and least expensive badge to earn in the ElectrifyPDX program is the one for getting your electricity from renewable sources. If you haven’t done so already, it’ll probably take less than half an hour—and will ultimately reduce your electric bill. While this isn’t an option everywhere in the country, it’s available in Portland, and it’s a cinch to sign up.
Step 1: Enroll in Community Solar.
Fill out a short on-line form, upload a copy of your electric bill or type in the account number, and that’s it! You can probably do this in under 10 min. Then just wait until the solar farm you’ve signed up for is placed in service, at which point your home’s electricity will come from that farm and your electric bill will go down by 5% (or ~30% for low/mod income participants!). Seems too good to be true, right? But it’s for real, made possible by the State of Oregon, which created the program (and subsidizes it) so folks who don’t own their roof can get renewable electricity. There are no up-front costs, no early exit fees, and the savings go right on your electric bill. And if you have an electric service for your business or HOA, you can sign it up for community solar too.
There are several program managers actively developing Community Solar projects in Oregon. They all offer very similar terms, and can be found via the state’s Community Solar website ‘project finder’ page.
Sign up by April 30th with Oregon Shines, and $25 will be directed toward a fund that offsets the cost of a low-income participant in the Electrify PDX program.
Currently, the delay between signing up for community solar and having the solar farm go into service is ~ 6-9 months. It used to be a lot longer, but the solar farm developers are catching up with demand. But you needn’t wait to get renewable energy for your home, because….
Step 2 (optional): Sign up for your electric utility’s green power program in the meantime.
Both PGE and Pacific Power offer green power programs, where you pay a little extra each month to get clean electricity instead of their standard blend that includes 40% – 60% electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. Their enrollment forms are super simple, and you can start or stop participation at any time.
- You can sign up here for PGE’s Green Future Choice Plan. The cost is ~$7/month and varies based on the amount of electricity you use. PGE uses these funds to buy third-party certified Renewable Electricity Certifications (RECs). You won’t have electricity from a specific generation facility delivered directly to your home, but the amount of electricity you consume will be replaced in the Northwest power grid by renewable resources.
- You can sign up here for Pacific Power’s Blue Sky Plan. Pacific Power offers two enrollment options: (1) A plan like the one above, that matches 100% of your home electrical usage with renewable power, or (2) a plan where you buy fixed ‘blocks’ of clean power each month at a predetermined price.
Solar Photovoltaics (PV)
Installing a rooftop solar system is a great choice for some homeowners, but it’s not an option for everyone. If you own your roof, it slopes down to the south, west or east, and it’s not shaded too much by trees or other buildings, you can probably install PV panels on it. Federal, state, and Energy Trust of Oregon incentives help defray the cost, and the latter two incentives go up significantly for low/mod income participants. You don’t have to become an expert on incentives; installers should do that homework for you and show you the cost before and after incentives—and how long it should take for your PV system to pay for itself. After that, it’s free power from the sun for the rest of the ~20 year life expectancy of the panels. There are plenty of good local installers available, so get 2-3 quotes, then pick your favorite!
Piqued your interest? Here are some additional details on green power options:
- Subscriptions last for 20 years, but can be canceled at any time;
- The Community Solar project you sign up for must be located within the same service area as your utility provider. Some project managers, including Oregon Shine, are developing projects in both PGE and Pacificorp territories, so can provide one-stop subscriptions for anyone in Portland.
- If you move within your electric utility’s service area, your community solar credits and savings move with you;
- If you move outside the service area, you can transfer your credits to someone else or cancel the subscription;
- If you have PV panels that provide some of your home’s electricity needs, you can sign up for Community Solar to cover the rest.
- Signing up for more electricity than you end up using is the only risk of the program. To avoid this scenario, project managers enroll you for ~80% of your average electricity usage. And even if you still somehow manage to over-subscribe, you can always terminate your subscription at any time with just 30 days notice and no exit fee. So much for risk! (And note: low/mod income participants are guarded from the over-subscription risk)
- If your income is less than $80,168 for a family of four (this scales for different-sized households; see the table here), you’ll be a low/moderate income program participant – and will get a ~30% reduction in your electric bill! You’ll need one more step to enroll: a short virtual chat with a staff member of the Community Energy Project (CEP). Contact them directly – or just fill out the program manager’s on-line form, which will connect you with CEP through the enrollment questionnaire.
- For answers to more questions, check out the state’s Community Solar FAQ.