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By Judy Barnes and as appearing in The Oregonian, June 30, 2003.

Fashioning the smooth transition to public ownership of a utility serving 750,000 customers scattered throughout six counties is no simple task. But creating an outcome that protects the long-term economic interests of the region is worth the work. There is more than one viable path to public ownership. The City’s path is one. The path proposed by the Oregon Public Power Coalition (OPPC) is another.

OPPC prefers the People’s Utility District (PUD) model of public ownership because:

  • it vests decisions on energy policy in locally elected boards with one mandate – to provide reliable energy at cost
  • it guarantees jobs for PGE’s current workers
  • PUD formation and operations are completely open processes, offering ratepayers maximum input and accountability
  • it provides the lowest rates. Based on 2002 data from the Oregon PUC, every single PUD in Oregon has lower rates than PGE (www.oppc.net).

OPPC's vision of the future consists of county PUDs in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill, Marion and the portion of Polk County served by PGE.

Once formed, county PUDs can cooperate under an intergovernmental agreement written to preserve maximum autonomy for each county while facilitating cooperation in the “wheeling” of power between counties, joint purchase of generation assets or shared use of facilities. Local water PUDs already use this model.

Formation of a Multnomah County PUD in November will be the first step along this path.

Until others are formed, a Multnomah County PUD can cooperate with the counties and cities in PGE’s territory to deliver reliable power and lower rates. Any cooperative arrangement possible if the City bought PGE, would work equally well with any PUD exercising the constitutional powers granted it to acquire power and distribution assets and to provide electric service inside and outside its boundaries.

The integrity of our unified delivery system is thus preserved at all times.

Claims that the service area of a PUD would be "riddled with holes" are irrelevant. PGE’s current territory is already “riddled” with holes. They are the public power utilities within it whose rates are significantly lower. PGE's 7.4 cents per Kilowatt-hour for 2002 is beaten hands down by the overall rates charged in Canby (6.0 cents), Forest Grove (4.0 cents), McMinnville (3.85 cents), and Salem Electric Cooperative (6.1 cents).

Fears of a “chaotic non-system with no power supply” are groundless. The most recent local example of PUD formation - Columbia River PUD (CRPUD) - acquired most of Columbia County from PGE in 1983. The cities of St. Helens, Scapoose, Columbia City, and Ranier originally voted to stay with PGE. After Enron’s takeover of PGE in 1997, voters annexed their cities into CRPUD (Ranier annexed into Clatskanie PUD next door). In 2002, CRPUD's average charge per kilowatt-hour was 5.6 cents; Clatskanie's under 3.3 cents. During the transition, no one experienced chaos or lack of power supply.

Those who once thought Enron buying PGE was a great idea, now think a People's Utility District buying PGE is a bad idea. Could they possibly be wrong again?

Print "People's Utility District would be 'wired for success.'" It includes a 2002 electric rate comparison chart of PGE vs. 29 of the largest publicly-owned utilities. [color]  [b&w]