Recently, the Bend Bulletin newspaper reported that two major solar power projects in Central Oregon are “on hold.” Both the Redmond Airport and the downtown Bend parking garage have been planned to include solar panels in design and construction. However, recent questions from Pacific Power, the local electric company, has asked for clarification of applicable laws pertaining to solar power from the state legislature. As noted by the group, Environment Oregon, “The cities provide space for the solar panels and get reduced-cost electricity from them without having to come up with money for the panels. The solar companies get the tax breaks.”
Sounds like a great arrangement for both sides, doesn’t it? However, the primary issue for Pacific Power is related to “net metering.” When solar power installations generate enough power, they can turn back a home or business electric meter. The effect is that a person can sell electricity back to the power company, if more energy is captured than used. As a result, some power companies are concerned that a large installation — solar or otherwise — may effectively become another, less-regulated private utility.