Oregon Court of Appeals Dismisses Utility Appeal regarding PURPA Fixed Price Payments

In December 2020, the Oregon Court of Appeals dismissed Portland General Electric Company’s (PGE’s) appeal of the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s (Oregon Commission’s) decision in Docket No. UM 1805 regarding contract term requirements under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). The Court’s decision capped a series of decisions affirming a long-standing Oregon Commission policy where qualifying facilities (QFs) eligible for standard contracts receive 15 years of fixed price payments.   

The case began in December 2016, when the Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition (NIPPC), Community Renewable Energy Association (CREA), and Renewable Energy Coalition (REC) filed a complaint before the Oregon Commission against PGE. At that time, PGE interpreted its standard contract forms to provide fixed pricing from the date of contract execution rather than the later date of commercial operations, which effectively shortened the fixed price period overall. While the Oregon Commission declined to find PGE in violation of its prior orders, it ordered PGE to offer contracts with 15-years of fixed prices that start on the QF’s commercial operation date.

PGE sought rehearing on the Oregon Commission’s order and appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. After PGE filed its appeal, the Oregon Commission conducted a rulemaking to decide the issue again, and the Oregon Commission again sided against PGE’s prior interpretation. Because the Oregon Commission reaffirmed its policy, the Court of Appeals deemed PGE’s appeal moot, meaning the issue was resolved without requiring further court action. As a result, PGE must now offer QFs 15 years of fixed prices from the date of commercial operations.

The Oregon Commission and the Court did not determine when fixed pricing begins under PGE’s previously executed contracts. That issue is separately before the Court of Appeals. In that separate appeal, NIPPC, CREA, and REC are appearing as amici curiae, or ‘friends of the court’, in support of upholding the Oregon Commission’s longstanding policy of offering QFs 15 years of fixed pricing from a QF’s date of commercial operation.

Sanger Law and Stoll Berne represented CREA, NIPPC, and REC in this appeal.

CREA supports business and economic opportunities through renewable energy development in a competitive environment. CREA supports use of free enterprise principles to create economically and environmentally responsible electric generation within the State of Oregon.

NIPPC represents electricity market participants in the Pacific Northwest, including independent power producers, electricity service suppliers, and transmission companies. NIPPC is committed to facilitating cost-effective electricity sales, offering consumers choices in their energy supply, and advancing fair, competitive power markets.

REC advocates for reasonable PURPA and interconnection policies on behalf of renewable QFs located in in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Sanger Law previously posted articles regarding the OPUC order in this case and regarding the subsequent OPUC rulemaking.

These materials are intended to as informational and are not to be considered legal advice or legal opinion, nor do they create a lawyer-client relationship. Information included about previous case results does not assure a similar future result.