NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 3, 2010

Building "green" is all the rage in Portland, Ore.  Eco-roofs and solar panels have become routine, and now the goal is for "net-zero" buildings that consume less energy or water than they produce.  However, while the idea is green, expect red.  The City of Portland's last attempt to promote net-zero construction ended in a subsidized spending spree, says the Cascade Policy Institute. 

In 2005, the Green Investment Fund was established as a competitive grant program, awarding money for five years to spur green building.  Enormous government subsidies were required for most grantees, says Cascade: 

  • DaVinci Arts Middle School, the only project to actually achieve net-zero energy, was realized because of $500,000 in community-donated services.
  • The June Key Delta House, a proposed net-zero community center, received over $400,000 in Portland Development Commission (PDC) grants and loans.
  • The Blanchet House of Hospitality, also hoping for net-zero energy, is enabled by a $2 million PDC grant and land swap.  

Other subsidized Green Fund projects failed miserably, says Cascade.  Construction never began on the million-dollar Shizen condominiums or the Kenton Living Building, both net-zero energy contenders. 

Now the city wants to build the Oregon Sustainability Center, a $90 million high-rise near Portland State University.   The proposed net-zero building would require $80 million in university bond revenue, $6 million from the city, and various other subsidies.   Yet even then, the rents would be the most expensive of any office building in the state, says Cascade. 

Source:  Rebecca Steele, "Green Investment Failure," Cascade Policy Institute, July 17, 2010. 


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