Gov. Kate Brown says Oregon is the first state in the nation to require its largest utilities to generate all their power carbon-free by 2040, while it helps low-income customers share in benefits and cushions them from negative economic effects.

“It is the most aggressive clean-energy bill in the country,” the Democratic chief executive said Tuesday at a ceremony on Electric Island, a joint project that Portland General Electric and Daimler Trucks North America that opened three months ago on Portland’s Swan Island.

The project has eight charging stations, most open to the public, and can charge up heavy-duty commercial vehicles at much faster rates. It is across from Daimler Trucks headquarters and about one mile from Interstate 5.

The ceremony led by Brown focused attention on four 2021 session bills, all of which Brown signed into law previously, that build on previous legislation to reduce the carbon content of fuels (2015), boost the share of power that utilities must generate from renewable sources (2016) and provide incentives for purchases of electric and other zero-emission vehicles (2017).

“I am proud of the work that Oregon has done to lead the nation in terms of progressive public policy that protects the environment,” she said. “House Bill 2021 is the leading standard for this country.”

The most far-ranging of the bills is House Bill 2021, which requires Oregon’s two major investor-owned utilities — PGE and Pacific Power, which serve more than 70% of customers — to generate all of their power carbon-free by 2040. It sets interim standards of 80% by 2030 and 90% by 2035.

The other bills:

• House Bill 2165: Allows utilities with more than 25,000 customers to charge them for electric vehicle infrastructure, such as charging stations; also increases rebates and lifts the 2024 automatic expiration on rebates that lawmakers approved in 2017 for electric vehicles.

• House Bill 2475: Empowers the Oregon Public Utility Commission to approve discounted utility rates for low-income customers and allows access to a fund by representatives of low-income households or communities disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and participating in PUC proceedings.

• House Bill 3141: Reduces public-purpose charge by Oregon’s two biggest utilities from 3% to 1.5% of revenues, extends the charge to 2036 and sets aside proceeds for schools, renewable energy sources, low-income weatherization and low-income utility assistance. The charge has been on the books since 1999 and was scheduled to expire in 2026.

Brown did hand out bill-signing pens to participants, although she signed two of the bills in late May, while the session was going on, and the other two on July 19. Lawmakers passed HB 2021 and 3141 on the final day of the session.

Utilities take part

Barely 18 months ago, Oregon lawmakers abruptly adjourned their 2020 session after Republican walkouts denied majority Democrats the required numbers to conduct any business, including broader climate-change legislation pending from the 2019 session.

In addition to Brown issuing an executive order immediately after the 2020 session, two factors led to the passage of the 2021 bills.

One was the active participation of Oregon’s major utilities in shaping the bills.

“We appreciate that a clean energy future will take all of us working together,” Maria Pope, PGE’s chief executive, said in introducing Brown.

“The energy bills being signed here will collectively promote an equitable energy transition and support low-income customers. It is an all-hands-on-deck effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, modernize our energy-efficiency programs, enable electric transportation and ensure that vulnerable communities have a full seat at the table.”

Scott Bolton, a senior vice president at PacifiCorp, said the bills deserve the well-worn label of “historic.”

“The suite of bills we are here to celebrate represents the most expansive energy and utility policy-making that Oregon has taken in over two decades,” he said.