Revisiting EWEB’s Climate Policies during COP26 11/01/2021

If the coronavirus pandemic defined the year 2020, climate change would summarize 2021. We've heard stories of devastation from across the globe, including record floods, landslides, hurricanes, and storms. Here in Oregon, we've endured massive wildfires, deadly heat waves, and extreme droughts.

Over the next two weeks, leaders from around the world will meet at the United Nation's 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, to commit to reducing the catastrophic effects of climate change.  

COP26 is an important follow-up to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which outlines a plan to prevent the planet from warming more than 1.5oC. At COP26, each nation will present its unique strategies to accomplish the promises made in the Paris Agreement.  

It's being called "the world's best last chance to get runaway climate change under control."

The United States, the State of Oregon, and the City of Eugene each have defined their own climate goals, as well. As a public utility, EWEB represents the interests of our community, and works in partnerships with the City of Eugene, the University of Oregon, local nonprofit organizations and businesses, and our customers - our constituents - to reduce our community's carbon footprint, conserve energy, and manage costs of service. 

In fact, EWEB's five elected commissioners approved a Climate Change Policy for EWEB in 2018. In it, the Board recognizes that climate change presents ongoing environmental, economic, and social risk to EWEB, our customers, our community, and the world. There are four areas in which EWEB recognizes its role in combating climate change, and one acknowledging the climate's impacts on EWEB business:

  • Power Generation: The Board is committed to supporting an electric power portfolio utilizing low-carbon, renewable resources to the extent possible and practical without impacting safety or reliability.
    • Status: Presently, EWEB's electricity resource mix is approximately 90% carbon free, with a 5-year average carbon intensity of 0.025 MTCO2e/MWh
  • Carbon Measures: The Board authorizes, delegates, and directs the General Manager to participate in local, state, and regional efforts to encourage, develop and enact measures to mitigate carbon emissions in the energy sector that contribute to climate change.
    • Status: Over the past five years, EWEB has been one of the few public utilities voicing support for carbon and climate legislation, including State cap and trade legislation, residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) reauthorization, wildfire mitigation standards and workshops, as well as an active participant on the Mayor's Climate Recovery Ordinance Ad Hoc Work Group and City of Eugene Climate Collaborative Partners group.
  • EWEB Operations: The Board further authorizes, delegates, and directs the General Manager to continue efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from EWEB's operations through the use of the Triple Bottom Line analytical framework, including impacts on the environment and climate.
    • Status: Between 2009 and 2019, EWEB's cumulative operations-based emissions have decreased by 4,457 metric tons of MTCO2e, or 39%, using location-based accounting for electricity. This decrease is primarily due to a 49% reduction in fossil fuel fleet emissions and a 33% reduction in electricity-based emissions. Year 2020 operational emissions will be reported in December.
  • Customer Decarbonization: The Board further authorizes, delegates, and directs the General Manager to assist customers with their carbon reductions through technical assistance and resources that support energy efficiency, alternative fuels, electric and water conservation, and smart electrification.
    • Status: EWEB offers over 40 different GreenPowerTM, energy efficiency and conservation products/programs, including limited income and rental qualifying programs, electric vehicle charging and heat pump hot water heater incentives, along with commercial programs for lighting, refrigeration, compressors, and other applications. Since 2010, EWEB programs have saved at least 600,000 MWhs (estimated, data is being analyzed) of energy representing 175,000 metric tons of carbon emissions reduction (using regional electricity blend), averaging 15,900 MTCO2e/Year during that period.
  • Impacts on EWEB: The Board directs the General Manager to evaluate and enact measures, as necessary and appropriate, to prepare for and minimize the effects of climate change that could impact EWEB's water and electric supply and infrastructure, damaging EWEB's resiliency and reliability.
    • Status: EWEB has and continues to develop plans to enhance resiliency and response to disruptive events, including those impacted by climate change, most recently a Wildfire Mitigation Plan, 2020 Eugene-Springfield Area Multi-Jurisdictional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan (Plan), and EWEB's Drinking Water Risk & Resiliency Assessment per the 2018 American Water Infrastructure Act.

Commissioners revisited EWEB's Climate Change Policy at the November 2021 Board Meeting.

As a community, we have made some inspiring progress towards cutting our emissions. EWEB has helped customers earn millions of dollars in rebates on their energy efficiency investments. Every day we see more and more electric vehicles on our streets. According to the City of Eugene's Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory, the we have decreased the carbon emissions of our buildings by "51% due to an increase in the share of low-carbon intensity electricity production generated or purchased by EWEB."

Throughout the next two weeks, while world leaders deliberate at COP26, we'd like to remind our community about our collective successes and how far we've come along together. While there is still much work to be done, by identifying clear, concrete actions we can all take, we can help create small victories that propel our momentum.

Follow along as we report some of our victories, share some exciting news about new programs and projects, and provide you with opportunities to take direct action to reduce your carbon footprintcut down on your energy use and save money.