Affordability, infrastructure among Oregon’s local leaders’ top concerns

Affordability, infrastructure among Oregon’s local leaders’ top concerns

streetscape with storefronts

From Klamath Falls to Wallowa County, Oregon’s 241 cities and 36 counties are facing a host of challenges.

To better understand local leaders’ concerns and how best to work with them on energy-related topics, Energy Trust recently sponsored a research report from Pivot Advising that asked about their top issues, barriers to solving those issues and how Energy Trust can help.

Energy Trust already works with cities and counties to support local efforts. It trains municipal staff in Strategic Energy Management, advises on climate and resiliency plans, makes connections with qualified contractors and provides cash incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy in public projects.

The report’s author interviewed 23 directors and managers from cities and counties across Oregon in the summer of 2021. Respondents included those who have worked with Energy Trust in the past and those who had little or no experience with Energy Trust.

Four areas emerged as top issues:

Lack of affordability, especially in housing
Every respondent included this as one of their top issues. Many said their local housing market has tightened significantly in recent years; they also reported rising transportation and utility costs and the lack of living wage jobs in their area.

The need to improve infrastructure
About 70% of respondents said they face issues related to inadequate and out of-date infrastructure for water, wastewater, transportation and internet connectivity.

Building the workforce and economy
About half reported challenges in balancing their funds with the services they can provide to their communities.

Climate change and resiliency
Respondents who chose climate change as a top issue described it as multifaceted, unsettling and challenging. Others mentioned resiliency—the ability of a community to withstand, recover and adapt after disruptions such as outages or wildfires—as a top issue.

As for ways Energy Trust can support their communities, respondents were most interested in incentives, connections to other funding sources, help assessing renewable energy opportunities and help with energy planning.

The report notes that using energy efficiency and renewable energy in new and existing homes and public facilities can help control costs while making communities more resilient to climate change.

The report’s conclusions will help Energy Trust further develop tools to engage local government leaders and work together to promote carbon reduction, energy resiliency and environmental justice.