A group of Oregon and Washington lawmakers, including Rep. Emerson Levy, D-Bend, traveled to Scandinavia this past week to learn about sustainable energy solutions that can be applied in the Pacific Northwest. The trip was designed to provide local legislators with clear examples of best practices in green energy.
NW Naural Gas, a natural gas distributor based in Portland and a key sponsor of the trip, says a goal of going to Denmark was to learn gas grid decarbonization technologies that can help curb greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change.
"We have never faced a bigger challenge than climate change and it's going to take a lot of different solutions and answers," David Roy, a spokesperson for NW Natural. "Learning everything we can from people and governments and companies and entities that are already doing it is really important."
Denmark - a country of 5.8 million inhabitants and a landmass six times smaller than Oregon - has emerged as a global leader in renewable energy and carbon capture technologies. In 2020 Forbes Magazine ranked Denmark first in a list of the world's most environmentally-friendly nations.
NW Natural, an energy company, bankrolled most of the expenses associated with the trip, including travel expenses for the legislators.
Levy notes that not only did NW Natural foot the bill for her travel costs, but the visit was sanctioned and approved by the Oregon State Ethics Committee. "No state dollars/taxpayer dollars were used," she said in an email from Copenhagen.
Representatives of Danish government agencies, private companies and nongovernmental organizations met with the Pacific Northwest delegation.
Site visits included power plants that are building facilities to capture and store the carbon they produce. Denmark is planning to remove domestic carbon and transportation-produced carbon from surrounding nations and store it under Danish soil.
The group also visited a geothermal plant, an offshore wind power plant and a gas storage plant. Program participants were also shown how energy distribution can be controlled on smaller scales to improve efficiency.
"We could look at setting up renewable hubs that do not necessarily have to be tied into a major energy grid," said Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, one of the delegates on the tour. "We need to look at communities having some ownership and being promoters of green energy, not just the utilities."
More needs to be done in the Pacific Northwest to bring industry together with renewable power sources to create synergies, said Owens.
"One's waste can be the raw ingredients for another's product," he said.
In addition to learning about world-class energy systems one of the main takeaways has been the benefits of stable government policies, which calms jittery investors.
"Even when governments change here they hold to their energy plans so investors know if they take the huge investment into offshore wind or whatever the project that the government subsidies or support will still be there," said Levy. "Investors don't have to worry about their plans getting scrapped every four years because of stable policies."