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Petition could increase Oregon's renewable portfolio to include more hydroelectric power

A measure to expand Oregon's definition of "renewable energy" to include more hydroelectric power could appear before the state's voters next year if a petition urging its consideration receives about 87,000 signatures by July 3, 2014.

The legislation, called the Affordable Renewable Energy Act, would modify hydro power's role in Oregon's renewable standard by allowing all hydroelectric plants completed after Jan. 1, 1995, to be counted amongst the state's portfolio.

Currently, only hydropower projects that were in operation before Jan. 1, 1995, are considered "renewable" sources.

"I would argue that hydroelectric is the cleanest power source in the state of Oregon," said state Rep. Greg Smith, who became the first person to sign the petition this past week. "I'm not denigrating wind or solar. I think there is a place for all energy. But the reality is, we need to make sure that hydro gets even consideration."

Hydroelectric plants are the top source of power in Oregon -- whose state law requires large utilities to generate at least 25% of their power from renewable sources by 2025 -- where 40% of the state's energy comes from hydro projects.

Similar provisions have been discussed in a number of other states recently, including Connecticut, Montana and Missouri.

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