Oregon’s “1.5% for Green Energy Technology” Program Doesn’t Pencil Out

By Cascade Policy Institute 

Cascade Policy Institute has released a new research report finding wasteful spending in Oregon’s 1.5% for Green Energy Technology program, known as GET.

Under the program, any government construction or renovation project costing $5 million or more must spend 1.5% of the budget on green energy technologies. These technologies can include solar, woody biomass, geothermal, and battery storage.

Cascade Research Associate Taylor Marks reviewed all of the available annual reports for the GET program and found that nearly all of the projects have payback periods of more than 30 years. That means that almost none of the projects will pay for themselves over the useful life of the investments. Even worse, the project forces spending even when the government agency sponsoring the projects says the spending is inappropriate.

In Portland, the Fire Bureau was forced to spend $90,000 under the GET program to install solar panels while renovating Fire Station 21—a project that was already behind schedule and over budget. The Fire Bureau informed the Oregon Legislature that the fire station was “not the best solar site.” Nevertheless, the spending was mandated. Those solar panels generate only $640 worth of electricity a year, meaning it would take more than 140 years for the project to pay for itself. The maximum useful life of a solar panel, however, is only 30 years.

The new Multnomah County courthouse project was required to spend $6.6 million under the GET program. Those investments will have a payback period of 492 years, meaning that by 2500, they’ll still have another 9 years to go.

Cascade Policy Institute urges the legislature to shut down the GET program in the next legislative session, or overhaul the program to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent on cost-effective energy strategies. Unless the program is ended or reformed, public agencies will continue to be forced to use public funds to construct energy technologies, even where they don’t make sense.

The full report can be found on Cascade’s website: Solar Panels in a Dark Room. 

Founded in 1991, Cascade Policy Institute is Oregon’s free-market public policy research center. Cascade’s mission is to explore and promote public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility, and economic opportunity. For more information, visit cascadepolicy.org.

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