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Oregon plans systems benefit levy

Plans to fund renewable energy in Oregon using a systems benefit charge-a levy on electricity ratepayers to pay for added value facilities not otherwise recognised by market forces-have gained momentum. State regulators and an environmental group have both issued proposals that would establish the funding mechanism. The Oregon Public Utility Commission has issued a restructuring order for Portland General Electric (PGE) that creates a systems benefit charge representing 3% of retail sales, which would be added to customers' bills. The Fair and Clean Energy Coalition-a group of environmental, human service, small business and consumer organisations in Oregon-has proposed similar legislation to financially support renewables and energy conservation. This bill also stipulates that consumers must be informed about their energy sources. The utility commission's order, which was a response to a restructuring plan from PGE and its parent company, Enron Corp, must be approved by PGE before it can be implemented. The commission is now writing legislation to implement the order. Meanwhile, PGE has signed a memorandum of preliminary commitment with Northwest Geothermal Co to buy 22.5 MW from a proposed geothermal plant, if state policy makers do decide to approve the systems benefit charge.

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