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GOVERNMENT:
Utilities

 



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Many imagine community ownership of ecologically-sound utilities.

Section Summary

This section addresses utilities, including city water and sewer management, solid waste collection, and gas, electric, and telecommunications services. While not many Portlanders mention utilities, those who do are concerned primarily with electric utilities and water bills. Portlanders want to City to move towards sustainable sources of energy and favor local ownership of utilities as well as services such as waste management. Community members who mention utilities in their vision for the future imagine Portland moving towards energy self-sufficiency, with the public creating and managing solar power, wind power and other forms of sustainable energy.

Note: This section contains significant overlap with Environment: Energy, which addresses alternative energy, local power production, energy prices, and other related topics. However, that section is limited to a discussion on energy while this section covers comments on a range of utilities.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. Wherever possible, Portland should encourage local ownership of utilities.
  2. The utilities of the future will be environmentally friendly.
  3. Portland’s water is excellent, but bills seem too high.

Summary of Tensions and Disagreements

  1. Should Portland have purchased Portland General Electric (PGE)?

MAIN IDEAS

  1. Wherever possible, Portland should encourage local ownership of utilities.
  • Many people favor regional and/or local ownership of water and electric utilities.
  • Quite a few respondents call for breaking up monopolies on services such as garbage collection, phone service and cable service. A number of people say they would prefer to see many small, locally-owned companies providing these services as opposed to large, out-of-state corporations.
  • While opinions differ on whether or not the City should have purchased PGE, many people feel that local ownership of electric utilities would make power more affordable and more sustainable.
“[In 2030] the people of the city own/control all public utilities, and our power sources are all ecologically sound ones.”

“Energy management is the topic of the day, and a possible nightmare of tomorrow. Move away from an oil-based economy. A first step is public power, a bigger step is 'net zero' building regulations. Or changing code requirements for proximity to basic services for neighborhoods, such as grocery stores.”


  1. The utilities of the future will be environmentally friendly.
  • Portlanders want utility providers to quickly adopt “green” technologies and make environmentally friendly utility options more affordable and more widely available.
  • Many Portlanders imagine that in the future, solar power and wind power will replace fossil fuels as the primary source of energy.
  • Portlanders are interested in reducing reliance on conventional utility providers and encouraging individuals and communities to produce and manage their own sources of energy and water.
"[In 2030] green options for utilities (like wind power for electricity) are no longer voluntary, but standard.”

“[In 2030] our energy use decreased enough to cause PGE and PacifiCorp to close all of their coal-fired power plants. Our water use decreased by so much that we never use the Columbia Aquifer well field and Bull Run even stores less than right now. We earned a commendation for stormwater management from the EPA for eliminating combined sewer overflows. We do such a good job at stormwater management that the big pipe rarely every holds runoff. Our local economy is thriving. Our landfills are not even used anymore we recycle, reuse, compost everything.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Legalize the use of grey-water systems.
  2. Create solar panel grants to encourage more people to install solar panels in their homes and offices.
  3. Create a municipal solar utility.
  4. Reduce fees and create a more efficient permitting process for private solar use.
  5. Create a public education campaign to educate Portlanders on different utility options and on the benefits of supporting environmentally friendly utilities.

  1. Portland’s water is excellent, but bills seem too high.
  • Many people wonder why water and sewage bills are so high and ask for prices to be brought down.
  • At the same time, people love that Portland has tap water that tastes clean and good. They also love public water fountains (for more, see Environment: Water).

“Check out those water charges. Water costs are high and keep rising. Why? Who’s keeping track?”


“Investigate H20 billing and gains-my bill just doubled to $98/month. Wow! For single retirees.”

TENSIONS AND DISAGREEMENTS

  1. Should Portland have purchased Portland General Electric (PGE)?

    Community members disagree over whether or not Portland should have attempted to purchase PGE. Some people are clearly opposed to public ownership of PGE, while others think public ownership is a good idea. Still others speak of resenting the amount of time, energy and money invested in “thinking about buying PGE.” It is unclear whether these people wanted the City to simply go ahead and purchase it or not to have considered it in the first place.

    Despite these disagreements over the specific issue of PGE, most people who mention public power in this section are generally supportive of the concept. They believe that over the long term, public ownership of electric utilities will result in power that is more affordable and more environmentally sustainable.

"We should own PGE. If you look at the Austin PUD they have developed wind power and lock in customers at rates that are now below prices for conventional and polluting electricity.”

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