Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities: Opening Up Oregon's Electricity Market

Overview

Even though electricity rates in the Pacific Northwest historically have been lower than elsewhere in the nation, many of Oregon's industrial and commercial customers believed they could receive lower prices and better service if there was a competitive market to replace utility monopolies.

Challenge

CFM was hired to lobby electricity market restructuring legislation in the 1997 session, even though little political spadework had been done. Not surprisingly, the legislation was debated, but not enacted. In the interim, CFM devised an aggressive outreach effort that simplified the issue for lawmakers and the media, and made the case why a competitive market was valuable for commercial and industrial customers – as well as for advocates of renewable power resources.

Approach

CFM's Approach was to lobby electricity market restructuring legislation while coordinating an aggressive outreach program.

Result

The outreach paid off as the coalition CFM represented fended off strong opposition from one of the state's major utilities. The reform was called one of the best market restructuring measures in the nation. CFM was called on in the session to defend the restructuring bill after California's flawed re-regulation scheme backfired, sending prices in the West through the roof. Compromises, including a six-month delay in implementing Oregon's restructuring plan, helped preserve most of the 1999 legislation.