The Columbia River, of vital economic importance to Oregon, forms much of the state’s northern border. Although the state has little in the way of fossil fuel resources, large dams along the Columbia River generate most of the hydroelectric power in the Pacific Northwest.The heavy sustained runoff from the snow pack in high elevations, as well as high annual rainfall, make Oregon the nation’s second largest producer of hydroelectric power. The Columbia River cuts through both the Cascade Range and the Coast Range of Oregon, forming the Columbia Gorge, an area of high wind energy potential. In the western part of the state, the mild temperatures and abundant rainfall contribute to rapid tree growth, which, along with agricultural waste-products, provides an ample source of biomass. The Basin and Range country in southern and eastern Oregon, as well as the Cascades in western Oregon, are promising sites for geothermal energy development.

Manufacturing made up almost one-fourth of Oregon’s gross state product in 2015, a share that is twice the proportional contribution of manufacturing to the nation’s economy as a whole. Computers and electronics are the state’s most important manufactured products. Although the energy-intensive lumber business, including the manufacture of related forest products, is one of Oregon’s principal industries, the state’s total energy consumption per capita is moderate. Most of Oregon’s population lives in mild climate zones along the Pacific Coast west of the Cascades and in the Willamette Valley. The residential sector uses less energy per capita than it does in most of the states, placing Oregon 42nd in the nation. Nearly 9 in 10 Oregon households use electricity or natural gas for home heating, and most of the rest heat with wood. The electric power sector is Oregon’s leading energy-consuming sector, followed by the transportation sector.

Renewable Energy

Quick Facts

  • In 2015, 68% of Oregon’s utility-scale net electricity generation came from conventional hydroelectric power plants and other renewable energy resources.
  • Major transmission lines connect Oregon’s electricity grid to Southern California, allowing for large interstate electricity transfers.
  • The Mist field in northwestern Oregon is the only producing natural gas field in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Oregon’s geothermal potential is ranked third in the nation after Nevada and California.
  •  There are 464 electric vehicle charging stations in Oregon, with a total of more than 1,100 charging outlets.

Renewable resources, including hydroelectric power, contribute more than two-thirds of the net electricity generated in Oregon. In years with increased or prolonged precipitation or snowmelt, renewable resources contribute as much as four-fifths of net electricity generation because of the state’s abundant hydroelectric generation capacity. Oregon is the second-largest producer of hydroelectric power in the nation, after Washington, and hydroelectric power provides more than half of the net electricity generated in Oregon. Wind energy provides most of the state’s net generation from non-hydroelectric renewable resources. With facilities in the Columbia Gorge and eastern Oregon hills, Oregon has more than 3,150 megawatts of installed capacity at operational wind farms. In 2014, wind provided one-eighth of Oregon’s in-state net electricity generation from all sources, but a drop in the average wind speeds in the region in 2015 slightly reduced wind’s contribution. Most of the rest of Oregon’s renewably sourced electricity is generated from biomass, primarily wood and wood waste but also from several small landfill gas facilities. Smaller amounts of electricity are generated from the state’s significant geothermal resources and its more limited solar resources.

Oregon’s geothermal potential is ranked third in the nation, after Nevada and California. Although Oregon currently has only small amounts of electricity generated from geothermal energy, the state’s high-temperature geothermal areas could provide as much as 2,200 megawatts of generating capacity. A 22-megawatt electricity-generating unit using geothermal energy has been operating in Malheur County since 2012. That larger unit followed the installation of a 0.3-megawatt geothermal unit that began producing electricity at the Oregon Institute of Technology’s Klamath Falls campus in 2009. A second unit (1.8-megawatts) at the Oregon Institute site began operating in 2014. In 2015, a 3.1-megawatt unit came online in Lake County. Two additional projects are in development and several others have been proposed. Oregon’s geothermal resources have also long been used in direct heat applications. Almost the entire state east of the Cascade Range has ample low- to mid-temperature geothermal resources. Oregon has more than 2,000 thermal wells and springs that furnish direct heat to buildings, communities, and other facilities.

Oregon residents have been using low-to-moderate temperature geothermal resources for more than a century, but biomass is the most abundant and widely used source of renewable thermal energy in Oregon. Forest covers almost half of the state, and many industrial facilities in Oregon use woody biomass to provide heat, as well as to generate electricity. Oregon gives tax credits for the production, collection, and transportation of biomass used for energy production.

Oregon has teamed with Washington, California, and British Columbia to create the West Coast Green Highway.

Oregon has teamed with Washington, California, and British Columbia to create the West Coast Green Highway, a collaborative effort to promote sustainable transportation solutions through the use of high-efficiency and cleaner-fuel vehicles. When complete, the West Coast Electric Highway, a network of fast-charging stations for electric vehicles along Interstate 5 and Highway 99 in the Pacific Northwest, will span the 1,300 miles from the Canadian border to the Mexican border with public fast-charging locations every 25 to 50 miles. As of October 2016, there were more than 460 electric charging stations in service across Oregon, with more than 1,100 charging outlets. In 2013, Oregon joined with seven other states across the nation to form the collaborative Multi-State ZEV Action Plan. The plan’s goal is to get 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the nation’s highways by 2025.

Oregon’s renewable energy portfolio standard was enacted in 2007 and required the state’s largest utilities—those with more than 3% of the state’s load—to meet 25% of their electricity sales with new renewable energy sources by 2025. Small utilities with 1.5% to 3% of the state’s load have a target of 10%, and the smallest utilities have a target of 5%. In 2016, the Oregon legislature passed a bill that increased the target for large investor-owned utilities to 50% by 2040. The law also requires that those electric utilities that supply California consumers eliminate coal-fired resources from their supply by 2030. Overall, Oregon’s electricity generation from renewable resources, other than hydroelectric power, has increased dramatically in recent years. From 2007 through the end of 2015, electricity generation from non-hydroelectric renewable resources increased about fourfold.


Hydroelectric power dominates electricity generation in Oregon, providing more than half of the net electricity generated in the state. In some years that share can approach three-fourths of net generation. Oregon’s four largest electricity generating facilities—John Day, The Dalles, Bonneville, and McNary—are all hydroelectric plants located on the Columbia River. They account for two-thirds of the net summer capacity from the 10 largest power plants in the state. Smaller hydroelectric plants generate power along several rivers flowing from the Cascade Mountains.

Hydroelectric power provides more than half of the net electricity generated in Oregon.

Natural gas has been providing an increasing amount of generation in Oregon. In 2015, natural gas-fired power plants provided more than one-fourth of the state’s net electricity generation. Although about one-third of Oregon’s total electricity supply is generated at coal-fired power plants, most of that generation occurs out-of-state. Oregon’s only coal-fired power plant provides less than 5% of Oregon’s in-state net generation, and the plant is scheduled for retirement in 2021. There are no nuclear power plants in Oregon.

Even though half the homes in the state heat with electricity, Oregon’s net electricity generation is greater than its consumption. Some electricity is delivered to other states by way of the Western Interconnection, which runs south from western Canada to Baja California in Mexico and reaches eastward across the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains. The Western Interconnection is one of the principal power grids in North America. Major transmission lines of the Western Interconnection, called the Pacific Intertie, connect Oregon’s electricity grid to California’s grid, allowing for large interstate energy transfers between the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.

Natural Gas

The Mist field in northwestern Oregon is the only producing natural gas field in the Pacific Northwest. Numerous reservoirs have been found in the field since its discovery in 1979. The Mist field includes underground natural gas storage projects in some of its depleted natural gas reservoirs. Oregon has seven underground natural gas storage fields with a combined capacity of almost 30 billion cubic feet. Exploration wells continue to be drilled in the Mist field; however, production has declined markedly from its high of 4.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year in the mid-1980s. Annual natural gas production from the Mist field is now less than one billion cubic feet.

Oregon has the only producing natural gas field in the Pacific Northwest.

Natural gas enters Oregon by way of Washington, Nevada, and Idaho, and almost all of it continues on to California markets. The Northwest Pipeline system brings natural gas from British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, the U.S. Rocky Mountain region, and the San Juan Basin area. It supplies the Portland area and western markets, as well as the northeastern corner of the state. The Gas Transmission Northwest system brings natural gas from Alberta and British Columbia, Canada, and serves the central portion of the state between Stanfield and Malin, Oregon’s two natural gas market hubs. The Ruby pipeline, which began operations in the summer of 2011, brings natural gas from the Opal Hub in Wyoming, crossing through Utah and Nevada before terminating at the Malin hub. The Ruby Pipeline’s initial design capacity of up to 1.5 billion cubic feet per day increased the regional capacity to move natural gas from the major Rocky Mountain basins to consumers in California, Nevada, and the Pacific Northwest by more than 50%.

Several liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals have been proposed in Oregon, and all were originally planned as import terminals. As a result of changing market conditions, only one proposal remains active. That proposed LNG terminal—Jordan Cove at Coos Bay—has pursued federal permits to build an export facility.

In Oregon, the electric power sector consumes the largest share of natural gas. The industrial sector is the next largest user followed by the residential sector. Almost two-fifths of Oregon households use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (Nov 2016)

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In Oregon, large business customers with a demand greater than 30 kilowatts (kW) can choose an alternative electricity supplier depending on utility territory. Customers of Portland General Electric (PGE) have four set times during the year. Customers of PacifiCorp may only choose an alternative electric supplier during a once-annual, three-day window in November. Customers above 30 kW and less than 1 megawatt (MW) are eligible for a 'shopping credit' on their bill of 5¢/kWh, which is a line item reduction in their charges for choosing an alternate electric supplier. The credit is limited to the first 10% customers of each utility. Both utilities also cap the total number of customers who can choose an alternative supplier.

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