Data centers and cryptocurrency miners located in Oregon will need to conform to the new clean energy goals put forward in a new bill by the state.
Failure to comply with the standards set by the 2023 'House Bill 2816' will result in a penalty of $12,000 per megawatt-hour of violation per day, as well as tax breaks being withheld.
The bill requires high-energy use facilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity use at set intervals. The bill describes the ‘baseline emissions level’ as 0.428 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per megawatt-hour. All high-energy use facilities must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 60 percent below baseline emissions by 2027, 80 percent by 2030, 90 percent by 2035, and 100 percent by 2040.
The bill also states that facilities must provide an annual report to the Department of Environmental Quality to demonstrate compliance.
Several big names currently house data centers in the state, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Twitter. The location has proven popular due to property tax incentives in the area that were originally introduced in 1985 for factories. According to Oregon Live, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have cumulatively saved $650 million in property taxes on their Oregon server farms since opening. Google’s tax break expired in November 2022 after 15 years.
While many data center providers have taken steps to improve the sustainability of their facilities, with Apple and Meta finding clean energy projects in the state to power their data centers in Prineville, others have not. According to Oregon Live, carbon emissions per megawatt hour have increased 543 percent since Amazon’s arrival in the Umatilla Electric Cooperative’s service territory in 2010.
“We’re in a climate emergency. We have to act. And big data centers that are using an excessive amount of energy really need to be on board,” said Representative Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, one of three sponsors of House Bill 2816.
Democrats Senator Michael Dembrow and Representative Mark Gamba are also sponsoring the bill, which is currently on the speaker's desk and awaiting referral.
Marsh further stated that the new rules would hold data centers to the same standards Oregon set for big private utilities two years ago, requiring Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
While the state provides access to federal hydropower, the quantity of energy needed and used supersedes the regional allowances, requiring utilities to buy power on the open market which is mostly based on gas-fired generators.
The US senate also passed a bill in August 2022 looking to reduce the impact of climate change. The $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act could, according to Think tank Energy Innovation, reduce US greenhouse gas emissions to 37-41 percent below 2005 levels, and increase GDP by 0.84-0.88 percent in 2030. Think tank Rhodium Group put reductions at 31-44 percent. Both are below the Biden Administration's aim of a 50 percent reduction, a science-based target.