Governor John Kitzhaber has signed HB 2960, dubbed “Cool Schools”, citing it as one of his highest legislative priorities in the current session. As a candidate, and again immediately after taking office, Governor Kitzhaber called energy efficiency investments in K-12 schools in Oregon an opportunity to create jobs, reduce school operating expenses, and improve the indoor environmental quality of Oregon classrooms. Cool Schools creates a “clean energy development fund” in the state that can be used to award grants and low interest loans for energy efficiency projects in K-12 public schools. Initially, $15M is directed into this account and the bill opens the door for bringing new additional funding to the “Jobs, Energy, and Schools Fund.” Local school districts could leverage the fund with additional financing for projects from local bonding and/or the use of public purpose charge funds that are directed to school districts.
The Oregon Department of Energy is scripted to develop, in consultation with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a plan for phase 1 of Cool Schools. In addition, the legislation calls for the design and implementation (by ODOE) of a high performance schools pilot program. The Oregon PUC is also, under this legislation, required to prepare a report on the how an energy efficiency power purchase agreement might work in the State of Oregon. Read the bill language at www.leg.state.or.us