Oregon Addresses Electric Vehicles and Energy Efficiency

Oregon executive orders

For buildings, Executive Order 17-20 requires “new state-owned buildings permitted after January 1, 2022, and used primarily for office and other commercial work space are designed to be able to operate as carbon-neutral buildings.”

The Order calls on new residential structures to “be ready for the installation of solar panels and related technologies by October 1, 2020,” and sets a date of October 1, 2022 for commercial structures to meet the same requirement. It also aims to modify the state building code to have new residential buildings meet an equivalent level of performance as the 2017 DoE Zero Energy Ready Standard by October 1, 2023.

Order 17-20 goes beyond the usual code-like language. It even extends to equipment, calling on state agencies “to ensure that all equipment purchased by the state meets high-efficiency energy and water use specifications by incorporating efficiency standards into procurement requirements.” Even more important, it recognizes lifecycle costs. Quoting straight from the Order: “The Oregon Department of Energy is directed to analyze state building costs, including lifecycle energy and water use costs or savings, when considering energy and water upgrades for state buildings.”

Water is more than just tangentially mentioned. The Order requires high-efficiency water fixtures to become a code requirement for all buildings by January 1, 2020. The Governor also wants on-site reuse to enter the building code. The state Building Codes Division is directed to amend the code “to require water efficiency improvements in all new commercial buildings through standards for capture and safe reuse of water for irrigation purposes by October 1, 2025.”

Existing buildings aren’t neglected in the Order. The Public Utility Commission is directed to work with the Energy Trust of Oregon to expand pilot programs that focus on incentivizing energy efficiency in existing single-family and multifamily residences, as well as commercial buildings, that are “significantly below current building code requirements.”

There will also be an effort to “assess energy use in all affordable housing stock and develop a 10-year plan for achieving maximum efficiency, as well as a continuum of efficiency levels up to maximum efficiency… by January 1, 2019.”

On the vehicle side of things, Order 17-21 sets a policy goal of 50,000 (or more) registered and operating electric vehicles in Oregon by 2020 and creates “Governor’s Awards” for automobile dealerships with high EV sales and businesses/organizations that support EV adoption through the installation of charging infrastructure and fleet conversion. There are already a number of measures in place to incentivize electric vehicles, including a zero-emissions vehicle purchase or lease rebate of between $1,500 and $2,500 for cars priced under $50,000 and a program called “Charge Ahead,” which makes an additional $2,500 EV-purchase rebate available to lowincome drivers in high-pollution areas who scrap an operating car that’s at least 20 years old. However, as Pete Danko of the Portland Business Journal points out, “the order does push… to spend some of the state’s Volkswagen diesel-scandal settlement money on EV infrastructure, and it calls for development of a charging infrastructure plan” for the state’s EV fleet. (Read a full report on this in the Portland Business Journal.)

These measures could be viewed as a result of regional peer pressure or competitiveness. Oregon’s neighbors to the north and south are some of, if not the most, environmentally progressive states in the country. In fact, a car salesman interviewed by Danko stated, “One of the things we fight here is that people compare our pricing to California, where they’ve had better incentives.”

There’s another factor that could be in play here. Portland, the state’s most populous metro area, is a very environmentally-conscious city, and most of its residents are proud of that identity. 2018 is a gubernatorial election year in Oregon, and this move may help shore up votes just as campaign season is about to begin.