The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF) provides dedicated funding for climate action that advances racial and social justice. PCEF was created by local ballot measure #26-201 in November 2018 with overwhelming community support.
In the face of climate change, racial injustice, economic insecurity, and COVID-19, PCEF offers a community-led vision, grounded in justice and equity, that builds citywide resilience and opportunity.
The Fund is anticipated to bring $44 - $61 million in new annual revenue for green jobs, healthy homes, and a climate-friendly Portland. As the nation’s first-ever climate-fund created and led by communities of color, PCEF is for and by the community. PCEF centers Black and Indigenous people, and other disadvantaged and marginalized groups in addressing the climate crisis.
Grant Committee and City staffing
PCEF is guided by a nine-member Grant Committee of diverse Portland residents. The Grant Committee makes funding recommendations to the Mayor and City Council and evaluates the effectiveness of the Fund achieving the goals of the initiative.
Membership of this committee must reflect the racial, ethnic and economic diversity of the City of Portland; include at least two residents living east of 82nd Avenue; and possess significant experience in the types of projects supported by the Fund. Project staff are housed at the City’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
The Grant Committee developed a set of principles to guide the program. These Guiding Principles describe the values by which the PCEF program is administered. The Guiding Principles complement the legislative code (PCC 7.07) and help ensure that decisions are being made in a way that aligns with the vision and values of the Committee and the community.
The guiding principles are:
Justice driven. Advance systems change that addresses historic and current discrimination. Center all disadvantaged and marginalized groups – particularly Black and Indigenous people.
Accountable. Implement transparent funding, oversight, and engagement processes that promote continuous learning, programmatic checks and balances, and improvement. Demonstrate achievement of equitable social, economic, and environmental benefit. Remain accountable to target beneficiaries, grantees, and all Portlanders.
Community powered. Trust community knowledge, experience, innovation, and leadership. Honor and build on existing work and partnerships, while supporting capacity building for emerging community groups and diverse coalitions. Engage with and invest in community-driven approaches that foster community power to create meaningful change.
Focused on climate action with multiple benefits. Invest in people, livelihoods, places, and processes that build climate resilience and community wealth, foster healthy communities, and support regenerative systems. Avoid and mitigate displacement, especially resulting from gentrification pressures.
PCEF priority populations
Providing benefits to specific populations is central to the PCEF program. These populations are called out in the legislative code and are the focus of PCEF’s grant programs. It is important that organizations applying for PCEF grants understand these priority populations.
The PCEF legislative code identifies two “priority populations”:
- Priority populations for clean energy, green infrastructure, and regenerative agriculture projects: People with low income and people of color are priority populations for grants that address clean energy, green infrastructure, and regenerative agriculture. Historically, these populations have had less access to the benefits of green investments, and at the same time they are more vulnerable to extreme heat, wildfire smoke, vector borne diseases, flooding and other climate-related impacts.
- Priority populations for workforce and contractor development projects: Women, people of color, people with disabilities, and people who are chronically underemployed are identified as priority populations for grants that address workforce and contractor development. These populations have not had equitable access to workforce and contractor opportunities associated with the clean economy. Developing a diverse and well-trained workforce and contractor pool in the clean energy field requires reaching these populations and addressing the barriers that have prevented their full participation in this field.
Clean Energy Surcharge and Revenue
Clean Energy Surcharge application
The Clean Energy Surcharge is a surcharge on large retailers and is not a sales tax imposed on customers or consumers. The Clean Energy Surcharge applies to large retailers with annual tax-year total gross revenue from retail sales of $1 billion or more in the U.S. and $500,000 or more within the City of Portland, excluding utilities, co-ops, credit unions, construction, retirement, as well as sales of qualified groceries, medicine or drugs and health care services. For more information on the definition of a “large retailer,” tax filings and revenue collections of the Clean Energy Surcharge (Amendments to the Portland City Code Section 7.02, Business License Law), please visit the City’s Revenue Division’s website.
Large retailers with $1 billion in national revenue and $500,000 in Portland, can choose to separately itemize its obligation to pay the surcharge on its receipts or invoices to customers or consumers. In this case, you may see an increased amount on your receipt.
Clean Energy Surcharge exemptions
The 1% surcharge does not apply to certain basic goods and services such as groceries that qualify for purchase under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and qualified medicines or drugs.
Qualified medicines or drugs that are exempt from the surcharge include any medicine, drugs or medical devices that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medicine or drug. Examples include over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, certain pet drugs and medical devices.
Examples of groceries that are not subject to the surcharge based on USDA SNAP guidance include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meat, poultry and fish
- Dairy products
- Breads and cereals
- Other foods such as snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
- Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat
Examples of groceries that are subject to the surcharge include:
- Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
- Vitamins and supplements (if an item has a Supplement Facts label, it is considered a supplement and is not eligible for SNAP purchase)
- Live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store)
- Prepared foods fit for immediate consumption
- Hot foods
- Any nonfood items such as:
- Pet foods
- Cleaning supplies, paper products and other household supplies
- Hygiene items, cosmetics
Revenues from the Clean Energy Surcharge on large retailers will be deposited into the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund and disbursed as grants for programs and projects that meet the requirements and priorities of the ballot measure.
The City of Portland’s Revenue Division currently estimates annual tax receipts of $44 million to $61 million. Because of timing differences between tax and fiscal years and an option for taxpayers to extend their filing deadlines for an additional six months, the Revenue Division will not have a final accounting of first year (tax year 2019) revenues until late 2020/early 2021. Actual collections will vary based on economic conditions, the proportion of sales that are classified by taxpayers as retail or wholesale, and the definition of taxpayers and their tax liability.
Please visit the City’s Revenue Division’s website for information on tax filings and revenue collections of the Clean Energy Surcharge (Portland City Code Section 7.02, Business License Law).
Funding a clean energy future for underserved communities
Climate change has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income residents. The Fund prioritizes these communities living on the "frontlines" of climate change with clean energy funding, job training programs and green infrastructure projects. This will help ensure they are prepared for a changing climate as we move toward our goal of an 80-percent reduction in carbon emissions and transitioning to 100-percent renewable energy in Portland.
The Fund finances programs that meet the following priorities:
- Clean energy projects, including renewable energy and energy efficiency projects
- Regenerative agriculture and green infrastructure projects.
- Clean energy jobs training.
- Programs that both reduce greenhouse gases and promote economic, social and environmental benefits.
All PCEF projects prioritize Portland’s underserved populations and neighborhoods, including communities of color and low-income residents. Examples of community benefits include solar panels and energy efficiency upgrades on multifamily housing, new workforce training programs in clean energy manufacturing and installation, shared food gardens, and increased tree canopy in heavily concreted neighborhoods.
Supporters of the ballot measure
The ballot measure campaign was supported by over 200 community organizations, major affordable housing and homelessness service providers and advocates, Business for a Better Portland, the Oregon Food Bank, 16 neighborhood associations, the faith community and elected officials.
The Steering Committee of the community coalition, who developed the measure and are now working with the City to implement the Fund, includes the NAACP Portland Branch, Native American Youth and Family Center, Coalition of Communities of Color, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Verde, 350 PDX, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Difference between Energy Trust of Oregon and PCEF
The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund is unique because it supports community-driven clean energy solutions and jobs to help Portlanders that need them the most. It also provides resources for families that do not have the disposable income to qualify for energy efficiency rebates and tax credits.
Energy Trust of Oregon provides support and incentives for residential energy efficiency and solar energy to the maximum level governed by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission, whose mission does not include climate change or social justice. The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund will add much-needed dollars on top of Energy Trust incentives. In addition, the Fund will provide a stable source of long-term funding for energy efficiency projects since the Oregon Department of Energy’s Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) program expired in 2017.