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Study Shows Millions Reaped From Renewable Energy Projects in Oregon

February 07, 2019

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Renewable energy projects provided Oregon counties more than $120 million in direct tax revenue over the past four years and nearly $32 million in tax year 2017-2018 alone, according to a new study released by the Green Energy Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School (GEI).

Rural counties in Oregon were by far the greatest beneficiaries of this revenue: in the 2017-2018 tax year, Sherman County received more than $12.5 million, Gilliam County received more than $8.5 million, and Umatilla, Morrow, and Malheur Counties each received around $2.5 million in direct tax payments from renewable energy projects.

“We’ve known that renewable resources bring economic benefits to states and local communities,” said GEI Staff Attorney Amelia Schlusser, “but this study proves how substantial those revenues can be.” In Sherman County, for example, renewable energy projects paid more than $2.5 million in property taxes, which represented about 35% of the county’s total certified property tax revenues for the 2017-2018 tax year. Sherman County also received an additional $10 million in direct renewable energy-related revenues that year.

The study is the first comprehensive assessment of the tax revenues that Oregon counties have earned from renewable energy projects. GEI Energy Fellow Lev Blumenstein accessed tax records from taxing districts around the state to calculate the revenues. According to Schlusser, counties can expect “even higher revenues next year, because a few more projects have come online and will start paying taxes during the 2018-2019 tax year.”

GEI’s team hopes that the study’s results will influence more progressive and effective renewable energy policy design. Melissa Powers, GEI’s director and professor at Lewis & Clark Law School noted that  “Oregon has amazing renewable resources, but our policies do not support steady renewable energy development. The state tends to support short-term policies that promote boom-and-bust cycles in the renewable sector. Our existing policies also make it hard for renewable energy facilities to get access to the transmission system. Hopefully, this study will help show lawmakers that renewable energy can benefit the whole state and lead to more effective renewable energy policy design overall.”

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