We all depend on energy – in many different forms:
- Gasoline and diesel to move people and goods.
- Electricity to power our buildings and manufacturing.
- Natural gas to heat our homes and make hot water for showers.
Energy is fundamental to our economy and our quality of life. Yet, in recent years, for many reasons, the price has continued to go up. The price has gone up so high that in 2009, Portlanders spent more than $1.5 billion on energy -- with more than half of those dollars going to power our cars and trucks.
Nearly all of the energy used in Portland is imported from outside of Oregon. And, contrary to popular belief, less than half of our electricity supply comes from hydropower. Instead, coal and natural gas are burned to generate the majority of our electricity.
With so much money being spent on energy, I believe we must use it wisely and be as efficient as possible. And, when we need more energy resources, we should begin to shift to renewable sources, like solar and wind. By doing so, we will:
Create local jobs: Many of the technologies, products and services required to make our community more energy efficient or increase our use of renewable energy sources - can be provided by Portland area companies. And, more efficiency and renewable technologies mean more dollars, which are currently spent on fossil fuels, will no longer leave our local economy. Increasingly, they will stay here to pay for labor and materials for home insulation, lighting retrofits, solar panels, bicycles and green building.
Become more energy self-sufficient: Taking actions to improve energy efficiency and use renewable energy will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. As prices continue to increase in the long run and supplies become more uncertain, a reduced reliance on volatile oil supplies will diminish the financial and social risks faced by everyone.
Save money: Using less energy in our homes, commercial buildings, manufacturing and vehicles means lower energy and transportation bills for residents and businesses. That means we have more money in our pockets to spend on other things that are important to us and our families.
Mitigate climate change: More broadly, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, help us address the unparalleled challenges of climate change and peak oil. Both of these issues require us to think beyond the near-term problem of climbing energy prices. Fortunately, Portland has a long history of seeking innovative solutions to such challenges. Pursuing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies provides us with tremendous opportunities to respond to these challenges in ways that create more local jobs, improve our health and enrich our quality of life in Portland.
If you’d like to read more about how renewable energy investments are creating green jobs in Portland, check out my recent column in Sustainable Industries Magazine.
Yours for a clean energy future,
City of Portland
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability