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Oregon   Oregon Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: November 16, 2017

Overview

Oregon's economy and energy resources are closely tied to its climate. The heavy sustained runoff from the snowpack in high elevations, as well as high annual rainfall, makes it possible to generate substantial amounts of hydroelectric power. Large dams along the Columbia River generate most of the hydroelectric power not only in Oregon, but also in the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia River, which forms much of the state's northern border, cuts through both the Cascade Range and the Coast Range of Oregon, forming the Columbia Gorge, an area of high wind energy potential.1,2 The Basin and Range high desert country in southern and eastern Oregon, as well as the Cascades in western Oregon, are promising sites for geothermal energy development.3,4 The mild temperatures and abundant rainfall in the western part of the state contribute to rapid tree growth, which, along with agricultural waste-products, provide ample sources for biomass energy.5,6

Manufacturing made up about one-fifth of Oregon's gross state product in 2016, a share that is two times larger than the contribution of manufacturing to the U.S. economy as a whole. Computers and electronics are the state's most important manufactured products.7,8 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 puts it in the bottom one-third of the all states.9,10 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 39th in the nation.11,12,13 Nearly 9 in 10 Oregon households use electricity or natural gas for home heating, and most of the rest heat with wood.14 The transportation sector is Oregon's leading energy-consuming sector, followed by the industrial sector.15

Petroleum

The Puget Sound refineries in Washington provide more than nine-tenths of the refined petroleum products used in Oregon.

Oregon does not have any proved crude oil reserves and does not produce crude oil; the state has not had an operating oil refinery since 2008.16,17 The Puget Sound refineries in Washington provide more than nine-tenths of the refined petroleum products used in Oregon. Those products arrive in the state by way of the Olympic Pipeline and by barge. Refineries in Salt Lake City, Utah, and British Columbia, Canada, also provide refined petroleum products to Oregon, and small amounts come by tanker from California and the Pacific Rim countries.18 The use of less-polluting, oxygenated motor gasoline is required throughout the state.19 Most of the ethanol blended with motor gasoline comes from out of state, but Oregon has one corn-based ethanol production plant and two other small facilities, one of which is a cellulosic ethanol plant and another that uses waste sugars and starches as feedstock.20,21 Additionally, there are two biodiesel production facilities in Oregon.22

Natural gas

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

Oregon has relatively small natural gas reserves,23 and 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.24,25 Oregon has 7 underground natural gas storage fields with a combined capacity of almost 30 billion cubic feet.26,27 Natural gas from storage reservoirs flows into the pipeline system to meet peak customer demand during colder months and to meet the needs of electricity suppliers as they respond to variable generation from rapidly changing wind conditions.28,29 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.30,31

Natural gas enters Oregon mainly by way of pipelines from western Canada, Washington, and Nevada. Almost all of the natural gas continues on to California markets, but some gas supplies are also sent to Idaho.32,33 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.34,35,36

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.37 Almost two-fifths of Oregon households use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating.38

Coal

Oregon’s only coal-fired power plant is scheduled to retire by the end of 2020.

Although coal was mined in southwest Oregon in the late 19th century and in the early 20th century, there are no active commercial coal mines operating in Oregon today.39,40 Instead, limited amounts of coal are shipped by rail from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming to fuel a small percentage of the state's electricity generation. The state's only coal-fired power plant is scheduled to retire by the end of 2020. Smaller amounts of coal are shipped from Utah to industrial plants in the state as well.41,42

Electricity

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

Hydroelectric power provides more than half of the net electricity generated in Oregon.43 In some years that share can approach three-fourths of net generation.44,45,46 Oregon's four largest electricity generating facilities—John Day, The Dalles, Bonneville, and McNary—are all hydroelectric plants located on the Columbia River.47 They account for two-thirds of the net summer capacity from the 10 largest power plants in the state.48 Smaller hydroelectric plants generate power along several rivers flowing from the Cascade Mountains.49

Natural gas accounts for the second-largest share of electricity generation in Oregon, but its use varies and can increase greatly during a drier year when cheaper hydropower is less available. In 2016, natural gas-fired power plants provided about one-fourth of the state's net electricity generation.50 Oregon's only coal-fired power plant provides less than 5% of Oregon's in-state net generation.51 Although a small amount of Oregon's electricity generation comes from coal,52 about one-third of Oregon's total electricity supply is generated at coal-fired power plants, with most of that generation occurring at out-of-state plants.53 There are no nuclear power plants in Oregon.54

Even though half the homes in the state heat with electricity, Oregon's net electricity generation is greater than its consumption.55 Some electricity is delivered to other states by way of the Western Interconnection, which is one of North America's principal power grids that reaches from western Canada down to Baja California in Mexico and stretches from the Pacific Ocean eastward across the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains.56 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. The 846-mile Pacific Intertie Direct Current transmission line, which runs from the Oregon-Washington border to Los Angeles, is capable of moving up to 3,100 megawatts of power in either direction.57 Although it was originally designed to transmit electricity south during California's peak summer demand season, flow is sometimes reversed at night and in the winter when power demand to meet heating needs increases in the Pacific Northwest.58

Renewable energy

Renewable resources, led by hydroelectric power, contribute more than two-thirds of the net electricity generated in Oregon.59 Oregon's electricity generation from renewable resources other than hydroelectric power has increased dramatically in recent years. From 2010 through the end of 2016, electricity generation from nonhydroelectric renewable resources doubled.60 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% renewable electricity, and the smallest utilities have a target of 5%.61 In 2016, the Oregon legislature passed a bill that increased the renewable generation target for large investor-owned utilities to 50% by 2040. Lawmakers also required that those electric utilities that supply California consumers eliminate coal-fired resources from their supply by 2030.62,63,64 Oregon allows electricity generated from wind, solar, hydropower, wave, tidal, ocean thermal, geothermal, hydrogen, municipal solid waste, and biomass energy to be used to comply with its renewable energy portfolio standard. 65

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

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 generating capacity.66,67,68 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.69 Wind energy provides most of the state's net generation from nonhydroelectric renewable resources.70 With facilities in the Columbia Gorge and eastern Oregon hills, Oregon has more than 3,200 megawatts of installed capacity at operational wind farms with about 1,900 turbines. In 2016, wind power accounted for one-eighth of Oregon's in-state net electricity generation from all sources.71,72 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.73,74 Smaller amounts of electricity are generated from the state's geothermal and solar resources. The majority of Oregon's solar generation comes from rooftop and other small-scale solar power installations.75,76,77 Solar resources are greater east of Oregon's Cascade Mountain Range compared to the state's coast or Willamette Valley.78

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.79,80 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 2010. A second unit (1.8-megawatts) at the Klamath Falls site began operating in 2014. In 2015, a 3.1-megawatt unit came online in Lake County. Two additional geothermal projects with over 10 megawatts of combined generating capacity are in development and several others have been proposed.81 One of those projects, located at the Newberry Volcano in central Oregon, has potential geothermal energy resources with temperatures that that are hotter than the Geysers of California, which is the world's largest producer of geothermal power.82 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.83 Oregon has more than 2,000 thermal wells and springs that furnish direct heat to buildings, communities, and other facilities.84

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.85,86 Forest covers almost half of the state,87 and many industrial facilities in Oregon use woody biomass to provide heat and to generate electricity.88 Oregon gives tax credits for the production, collection, and transportation of biomass used for energy production.89

Oregon is in the early stages of tapping its marine and hydrokinetic energy resources. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory deployed buoys off the Oregon coast during the summer of 2017 to record wave and tide movements, which will help support projects to convert energy from waves into electricity.90 Oregon State University was also awarded $40 million by the U.S. Department of Energy to build a wave energy test facility, which is expected to be operational by 2020.91

Oregon has collaborated with Washington, California, and British Columbia to create the West Coast Green Highway, an effort to promote sustainable transportation solutions through the use of high-efficiency and cleaner fuel vehicles.92,93 When complete, the West Coast Electric Highway, a network of 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 charging locations every 25 to 50 miles.94,95 As of October 2017, there were about 500 electric charging stations in service across Oregon, with more than 1,200 charging outlets.96 In 2013, Oregon joined with seven other states across the nation to form the collaborative Multi-State Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Action Plan, a goal to have 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the nation's highways by 2025.97

Endnotes

1 Western Regional Climate Center, Climate of Oregon, accessed September 29, 2017.
2 Sharp, Justin, and Clifford F. Mass, "Columbia Gorge Gap Winds: Their Climatological Influence and Synoptic Evolution," Weather and Forecasting, Volume 19 Issue 6 (December 2004), p. 970-992.
3 Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Basin and Range and Owyhee Uplands, accessed September 29, 2017.
4 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Geothermal Technologies Program, Oregon, DOE/GO-102004-2036 (February 2005), p. 1.
5 Western Regional Climate Center, Climate of Oregon, accessed September 29, 2017.
6 Oregon Department of Energy, ODOE: Bioenergy in Oregon, Bioenergy, accessed September 29, 2017.
7 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Personal Income and GDP, Oregon, accessed September 29, 2017.
8 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive data, GDP and Personal Income, Regional Data, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in Current Dollars, All Industries, United States, 2015.
9 Business Oregon, Forestry & Wood Products Industry, accessed September 29, 2017.
10 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2014) (June 2016), Table C13, Energy Consumption per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
11 U. S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census: Oregon Profile, Population Density by Census Tract.
12 Western Regional Climate Center, Climate of Oregon, accessed September 29, 2017.
13 U.S. EIA, Table C13, Energy Consumption per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
14 U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder, Advanced Search, Oregon, B25040 House Heating Fuel, 2011--2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
15 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2014) (June 2017), Oregon Tables CT4, CT5, CT6, CT7, CT8.
16 U.S. EIA, Oregon Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed October 2, 2017.
17 U.S. EIA, Oregon Number of Operable Refineries as of January 1, 2017.
18 Oregon Department of Energy and Oregon Public Utility Commission, Oregon State Energy Assurance Plan, (August 2012), p. 13-14.
19 American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Gasoline Requirements, accessed October 2, 2017.
20 U.S. EIA, Oregon Profile Data, Environment, accessed October 5, 2017.
21 Ethanol Producer Magazine, U.S. Ethanol Plants, updated on September 23, 2017.
22 Biodiesel Magazine, USA Plants, updated on May 11, 2017.
23 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Proved Reserves, Miscellaneous, Annual, 2015.
24 Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, History and General Operations, Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, accessed October 5, 2017.
25 Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Mineral Land Regulation & Reclamation, Oil & Gas Permits and Production Information, Mist Gas Field, accessed October 5, 2017.
26 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Number of Existing Fields, accessed October 5,, 2017.
27 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Storage Capacity, accessed October 5, 2017.
28 NW Natural, Natural Gas Storage, accessed October 5, 2017.
29 NW Natural, "NW Natural to Proceed with North Mist Expansion Project Permitting," Press Release (February 6, 2015).
30 Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Mineral Land Regulation and Reclamation, Oil and Gas Permits and Production Information, Mist Gas Field, accessed October 6, 2017.
31 U.S. EIA, Oregon Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals, accessed October 6, 2017.
32 U.S. EIA, International & Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Oregon, accessed October 6, 2017.
33 Williams Company, Northwest Pipeline, accessed October 6, 2017.
34 Oregon Department of Energy, Liquefied Natural Gas Emergency Preparedness, LNG Background, accessed October 6, 2017.
35 U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Projects Near You, accessed October 6, 2017.
36 Sickinger, Ted, "Coos County Voters Reject Ban on Jordan Cove Natural Gas Terminal," The Oregonian (May 16, 2017).
37 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End-Use, Oregon, accessed October 6, 2017.
38 U. S Census Bureau, American FactFinder, B25040, Oregon, House Heating Fuel, 2016 American Community Survey Estimate.
39 Duncan, Donald C., Geology and Coal Deposits in Part of the Coos Bay Coal Field, Oregon, U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey Bulletin 982-B (Washington, 1953), p. 53.
40 Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Mineral Land Regulation and Reclamation, Program Overview, Surface Mining Program, accessed October 6, 2017.
41 Sickinger, Ted, "A Gassy Future? Debate Rages Over What Replaces PGE's Boardman Coal Plant," The Oregonian (January 21, 2017).
42 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), Oregon Table DS-36, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2015.
43 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B
44 U.S. EIA, "Northwest hydroelectric output above five-year range for much of 2011," Today in Energy (February 21, 2012).
45 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly, DOE/EIA-0226 (2012/02) (February 2012), Tables 1.6.B, 1.13.B.
46 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Detailed State Data, 1990-2015 Net Generation by State by Type of Producer by Energy Source (EIA-906, EIA-920, and EIA-923).
47 U.S. EIA, Oregon Electricity Profile 2014, Table 2, Ten Largest Plants by Generation Capacity, 2015.
48 U.S. EIA, Oregon Electricity Profile 2014, Table 2, Ten Largest Plants by Generation Capacity, 2015.
49 The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, Power Generation Map, Hydropower projects, accessed October 10, 2017.
50 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.7.B.
51 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B.
52 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B.
53 Profita, Cassandra. "The Northwest Struggles With Coal-Generated Power From Out Of State," Oregon Public Broadcasting News (April 8, 2015).
54 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.9.B.
55 U.S. EIA, Oregon Electricity Profile 2015, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2015.
56 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, Learn More About Interconnections, Western Interconnection, accessed October 11, 2017.
57 Bonneville Power Administration, Factsheet, Celilo Converter Station, DOE/BP-3655 (October 2005).
58 Bonneville Power Administration, "Direct current line still hot after 40 years," Press Release (May 26, 2010).
59 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B.
60 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly, Previous issues of March 2010, Tables 1.6.B, 1.13.B, 1.14.B and February 2017, Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B.
61 Oregon Department of Energy, Growing Utilities and the Renewable Portfolio Standard (January 20, 2012).
62 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Oregon Renewable Portfolio Standard, updated June 7, 2016.
63 The Oregonian, Your Government, 2016 Session, Senate Bill 1547, accessed October 5, 2016.
64 U.S. EIA, "Higher Oregon renewable portfolio standard targets likely to boost wind power," Today in Energy (April 22, 2016).
65 U.S. EIA, "Higher Oregon renewable portfolio standard targets likely to boost wind power," Today in Energy (April 22, 2016).
66 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Oregon, Net generation for all sectors, annual, 2001—2016.
67 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly, DOE/EIA-0226 (2012/02) (February 2012), Tables 1.6.B, 1.13.B, 1.14.B.
68 U.S. EIA, State Electricity Profiles, Oregon Electricity Profile 2015, Table 2A, Ten largest plants by generation capacity, 2014.
69 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.3.B, 1.10.B.
70 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.11.B, 1.14B.
71 American Wind Energy Association, Oregon Wind Energy, accessed October 11, 2017.
72 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.14.B.
73 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.15.B.
74 U.S. EIA, Form EIA-860 detailed data, Annual Electric Generator Data, Form-860 Detailed Data, 3_1_Generator-_Y2016.
75 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.16.B, 1.17.B.
76 U.S. Department of Energy, Solar Energy Potential, accessed October 12, 2017.
77 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Geothermal Resources of the United States (October 13, 2009).
78 Oregon Department of Energy, Solar, accessed October 12, 2017.
79 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.16.B.
80 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Geothermal Technologies Program, Oregon, DOE/GO-102004-2036 (February 2005), p. 1.
81 Renewable Northwest Project, Renewable Energy Projects, Oregon Geothermal, accessed October 11, 2017.
82 National Energy Technology Laboratory, "Subsurface Modeling Explores New Geothermal Hot Spots for Renewable Energy," Press Release (September 11, 2017).
83 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Geothermal Resource of the United States (October 13, 2009).
84 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Geothermal Technologies Program, Oregon, DOE/GO-102004-2036 (February 2005), p. 1.
85 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Geothermal Technologies Program, Oregon, DOE/GO-102004-2036 (February 2005), p. 2.
86 Oregon Department of Energy, ODOE: Renewable Energy, Renewable Thermal Energy, Biomass, accessed October 12, 2017.
87 Oregon Department of Forestry, About Oregon's Forests, accessed October 12, 2017.
88 Oregon Department of Energy, ODOE: Oregon's Renewable Energy, Bioenergy, accessed October 12, 2017.
89 Oregon Department of Energy, ODOE: Energy Incentive Programs, Biomass Tax Credits, accessed October 12, 2017.
90 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, "NREL Deploys Wave and Tidal Measurement Buoys," Press Release (June 14, 2017).
91 Oregon State University, "Wave Energy Centers Receives $40 Million to Construct World's Premier Test Facility," Press Release (December 21, 2016).
92 West Coast Green Highway, Partners, accessed October 12, 2017.
93 West Coast Green Highway, Welcome to the West Coast Green Highway Website, accessed October 12, 2017.
94 West Coast Green Highway, West Coast Electric Highway, accessed October 12, 2017.
95 West Coast Green Highway, Welcome to the West Coast Green Highway Website, accessed October 12, 2017.
96 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Electric Vehicle Charging Station Locations, Oregon Electric, accessed October 12, 2017.
97 Oregon Department of Energy, Zero Emissions Vehicles, accessed October 12, 2017.