Commissioner Carmen Rubio Announces Proposed Changes To Strengthen and Streamline the Portland Clean Energy Fund

Press Release
Changes would enable bigger, bolder, and faster investments to reduce carbon and better respond to climate change

Portland, Oregon – Climate change poses an urgent threat to Portlanders, and that threat is growing. Responding to this threat, on Thursday, Commissioner Carmen Rubio announced changes that will enable bigger, bolder, and faster investments by the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF), while ensuring the program operates with unparalleled accountability, responsibility, and transparency. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability houses the Fund, and Commissioner Rubio oversees both the Bureau and the Fund.

“Each week, we face new, mounting evidence that climate change is accelerating, and our opportunity to respond is closing,” said Commissioner Rubio. “Through PCEF, we have the opportunity to complete big projects that help to reduce carbon from our two largest sources of emissions – transportation and housing – and make historic investments in our city’s tree canopy. We must make these investments happen as quickly as possible, and we can do so without compromising oversight and accountability, or community vision.”

Proposed changes will fall into two categories: code changes and expanded work.

First, Commissioner Rubio will propose changes to Portland City Code that will broaden the scope of eligible recipients, enable the fund to award contracts (as well as grants), increase the Fund’s administrative cap, and add and define new funding areas. The proposal will also remove funding allocations from code in favor of a five-year climate investment plan (discussed in the next paragraph). A summary of these code changes is link at the end of this release.

Commissioner Rubio will also propose creating a five-year climate investment plan which will strategically target the Fund’s investments. Through its first two rounds of granting, community organizations have proposed specific projects. The five-year plan would continue funding community-led work, but would also outline strategic program areas for the bulk of the Fund’s investments. This significant change will better align PCEF’s work with the City’s other climate action efforts, allowing the fund to proportionally direct money based on shared City priorities.

Under these changes, the PCEF Committee would recommend the five-year plan but not recommend specific applications made within the strategic program areas. Currently, the Committee reviews community-led projects and makes recommendations to the Council about which projects should receive funding. But as she streamlines PCEF’s work, Commissioner Rubio recognizes that asking volunteer committee members to review significantly more applications is not practical, and risks impeding time-sensitive work. The five-year plan will serve as a blueprint for PCEF staff and distinct review panels to review and refine applications made within the strategic program areas. This approach represents best practices for grant- and contract-review procedures.

The five-year plan would define the scope and funding of each strategic program. Two strategic programs will be developed immediately:

  • Tree canopy growth and maintenance (anticipated funding: $40 million over five years) 

  • Energy efficiencies in new and renovated multi-family affordable housing (anticipated funding: $60 million over five years)

 In an initial five-year plan, Commissioner Rubio also anticipates prioritizing:

  • Housing and small commercial energy efficiency, renewable energy, and embodied carbon (anticipated funding: $300 million over five years)

  • Resilient community centers (anticipated funding: $30 million over five years)

  • Transportation decarbonization ($100 million over five years)

  • Planning and early investments for a low-carbon, equitable 82nd Ave corridor (anticipated funding: $10 million)

  • Low-cost green financing for carbon-reducing projects ($100 million)

Commissioner Rubio will present her proposal at tonight’s PCEF Committee meeting. The ordinance with these changes will come to Council during the afternoon session on October 19, 2022, which is when public testimony will be heard.

About Commissioner Rubio

Commissioner Carmen Rubio joined the Portland City Council in January 2021. She oversees Portland Parks and Recreation, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the Office for Community Technology, and the Office of Equity and Human Rights; has liaison responsibilities to the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission, League of Oregon Cities, Metro Policy Advisory Committee, and Portland Community Media; and serves as Portland’s Arts and Culture Commissioner.

About the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund

The Portland Clean Energy Benefits Fund prioritizes communities living on the frontlines of climate change for clean energy, regenerative agriculture, green infrastructure, green workforce development and contractor support investments. Examples of projects 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 paved neighborhoods. Visit their website to learn more about funds distributed through their first and second rounds of grantmaking.

Click here for a PDF of this release.