This is a tremendous opportunity to show local support for renewable energy. It's a first step toward developing a more diverse, secure and sustainable energy supply by reducing the need to generate electricity from polluting and non-renewable sources.' Norm Cimon OTEC customer, Leader, Blue Mountain Energy Team of Oregon Rural Action
From Observer staff reports
La Grande area residents' current electric bill includes an opportunity for them to support renewable energy.
During the current billing cycle, Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative is giving its customers the option of signing up to purchase blocks of "Green Power," electricity generated from naturally renewable resources.
Steve Schauer of the Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative said OTEC is selling green power in blocks of 200 kilowatt hours at a cost to the consumer of $3 per block per month. OTEC customers may buy as many $3 blocks as they wish.
Shauer said the source of the new power is a wind project in Wyoming, and OTEC pays the Bonneville Power Administration "about" $3 per block.
"This would increase the cost to members," Schauer said. "They are billed for whatever they commit to on a monthly basis for a year.
"They're paying a premium amount for the environmentally friendly power."
Unlike the hydro power supplied by BPA, green power is not metered, Schauer said.
"You're charged for what you agree to buy, no matter how much you use," he said. "You make an annual commitment to pay on a monthly basis."
He said that if enough customers sign up for green power, OTEC may be able to buy less hydropower from BPA.
"It would mean we'd purchase a few less kilowatt hours from the hydro, but OTEC's bill will go up," he said. "We're trading a very inexpensive source for a more expensive source."
The program has drawn the support of Oregon Rural Action.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to show local support for renewable energy," said Norm Cimon, an OTEC customer and leader on the Blue Mountain Energy Team of Oregon Rural Action.
"It's a first step toward developing a more diverse, secure and sustainable energy supply by reducing the need to generate electricity from polluting and non-renewable sources," Cimon said.
A flyer included in the most recent OTEC bills explains that in order to participate in this green power program, OTEC will need to sell at least 66,000 kilowatt hours of green power every month for one year. This commitment will be met if 330 households in the OTEC service area agree to purchase a minimum of 200 kilowatt hours of green power each month for one year.
To sign up for green power, OTEC customers should fill out the questionnaire on the flyer enclosed with their bill.
Extra questionnaires are available from the regional OTEC offices.
Oregon Rural Action's Blue Mountain Energy Team is working to promote renewable energy development in eastern Oregon and sponsored informational workshops on wind energy earlier this year, Cimon said.
Another Energy Team leader, Chuck Koch, said, "We are excited to see OTEC moving in this direction and hope the co-op will continue to provide its customer-members with more options for purchasing renewable energy."