Portland Just Energy Transition Initiative Goes Public

On July 5th, over a hundred and fifty people gathered at Central Lutheran Church in NE Portland to learn about the Just Transition measure, a measure that will fast-track Portland to becoming a city that is 100% dependent on renewable energy sources. Minutes before the event began, volunteers scrambled to get enough chairs to seat everyone. We all knew that this measure was going to be important and didn’t want to miss a thing. The room buzzed with anticipation, excited to find out how Portland could combat climate change in a way that coincides with social and racial justice.

A crowd of people completely filling a room

At the end of the night, all those attending stood together and closed in a song.

Before we even got into the details surrounding the measure, folks began sharing why they got involved in the fight against climate change. The answers were resoundingly similar yet deeply personal. We all wanted to fight a problem that is and feels much larger than any one person can handle. One attendee shared that they got involved for the, “opportunity to work locally and see how local work reverberates out into the world.” Another felt that, “environmentalism, particularly environmental justice, is a moral crusade.” One attendee got to the heart of the Just Transition measure, which sits at the convergence of climate, racial, and socioeconomic issues. He got involved because this kind of convergence is needed to address the, “complex and sizable issues we’re facing today.”

The Just Transition measure gives the Portland community and local government a blueprint to build the city we want to live in. One that recognizes the reality of climate change and the ways in which it disproportionately affects those in our community who have been historically left out of the economic engine. In addition, the measure aligns with a resolution passed in June by the City of Portland and Multnomah County to, “meet 100% of community energy needs with renewable power by 2050” (Sickinger).

Signatures will begin to be gathered in August to propose the measure for the May 2018 election – this will be a big grassroots effort. In parallel, we’ll be pushing City Council to pass the measure.    

For the past 18 months, the NAACP Portland Chapter, 350PDX, Verde, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Coalition for Communities of Color, the Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA) and, more recently, the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club, have been thoughtfully and mindfully putting together the measure’s language (due to be released in late July). JoAnn Hardesty, president of the NAACP Portland branch, along with Adriana Voss-Andreae, executive director of 350PDX; Anais Tuepker, 350PDX volunteer team leader; and Rachel Levelle, 350PDX staff organizer; lead the discussion and introduced the measure to the audience. Below is a brief summary of the measure.  

  • What will the measure do? The measure would authorize a 1% supplemental business license fee on retail corporations that generate over $1 billion a year in national revenue and at least half a million in Portland (e.g., Ikea, Starbucks, Banana Republic, etc.). The business license fee has not been raised since 1974, and this fee increase will not be assessed for grocery or medicine sales. The fee would be calculated based on these corporations’ in-city revenues and is estimated to bring in $50 million annually. This measure would only apply to the City of Portland.


  • Why do we need this measure? According to the City, 213,000 of the 249,000 single and multi-family housing units are in need of energy efficiency upgrades. Energy Trust, utility, and government funding routinely falls short of community and climate needs. Dollars raised will provide an ongoing, consistent source of funding to augment and fill these gaps.


  • What will the measure do with the money raised? The measure will provide Portland with resources to bolster the city’s efforts to transition to a fossil free economy and respond to rising inequality. The money will be invested in:
    • Weatherizing and solarizing Portland homes and businesses, with a focus on low income communities
    • Job training to address economic inequities while providing opportunities for minority owned businesses
    • Local sustainable food production
    • An innovation fund so that Portland stays abreast of new “green” technologies
  • How will the money be governed? A Commission, patterned after the successful Portland Children’s Levy, will decide on which projects get funded and will assure accountability. The Commission will be intentionally diversified to ensure that a broad range of priorities will be represented.

According to national experts, the plan outlined in the Just Transition measure is replicable in 25 other American cities. Passing this measure will enhance Portland’s reputation as a national urban leader.

Pumped up and can’t wait for next May? Show that you care about moving Portland to 100% renewable energy by calling your Portland City Council members and urging them to support this measure. You can also volunteer with us by filling out this form.

Written by Nicole Metildi 

Cited source: Sickinger, Ted. “Portland, Multnomah County set 100% renewable energy goal.” Oregon Live, 1 June 2017.