New internships, Montana caucus representative to the board, and Montana caucus chair, oh my!
The Coalition is excited to announce two new internship openings for those interested in learning more about advancing affordable and equitable clean energy. We are interested in having this internship support the goals of justice, equity, and inclusion. The roles are flexible to your areas of interest. Learn more about the internships and how to apply below.
New Montana caucus representative to the board and Montana caucus chair
After 8 years as the Montana caucus representative to the board and Montana caucus chair, Jeff Fox is passing the baton to two new emerging leaders. Congratulations to Makenna Sellers, the new Montana caucus representative to the board, and Nick Fitzmaurice, the new Montana caucus chair!
Makenna Sellers became the Executive Director of the Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA) in 2022. Prior to joining MREA, she championed workplace improvements for nurses in southwest Montana and served as a clean energy organizer for Northern Plains Resource Council.
Nick Fitzmaurice is the Energy Transition Advocate for the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC). His work focuses on addressing the climate crisis and accelerating an equitable energy transition through public advocacy, education, organizing, lobbying the state legislature, and engaging with utilities and the Montana Public Service Commission.
In the States, on the Ground
It’s the start of a new year and you know what that means: legislative session! Washington’s “short” session of 60 days went live January 8. Here’s an update on some of our legislative priorities in 2024.
We need to decarbonize our energy system to meet our climate targets and improve local air quality. This bill provides a pathway to Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to decarbonize its gas system in a responsible, customer-focused way. It also allows PSE to reduce disproportionate cost burdens on low-income customers by providing rebates and other incentives to help transition off of fossil fuels and buy electric appliances. Check out our one-pager on these bills for more details.
This community solar bill would expand equitable access to the benefits of distributed solar and offer bill savings to renters, small businesses, and public service organizations. This bill makes it easier for these targeted entities to access the historic opportunity of the federal tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act, and furthers Washington’s goal to equitably meet clean energy standards under the Clean Energy Transformation Act. NW Energy Coalition supports this effort.
Updates to the Climate Commitment Act
The Climate Commitment Act (CCA) raised an impressive $1.8 billion over three cap-and-invest auctions in 2023, its first year of implementation. These funds will provide direct benefit to overburdened communities and help meet Washington’s climate targets through initiatives like 100% Clean School Buses (HB 1368). However, the size and scope of the CCA has motivated some detractors of climate action, culminating in a ballot initiative (Initiative 2117) going to voters this November. The Coalition opposes several bills (SB 5826 and SB 5877) that would add confusion to customer’s bills. We’re following the linkage bill (SB 6058) that proposes to connect Washington to the California-Quebec carbon markets, which could potentially add stability to the program.
Energy assistance for low-income households – HB 2234
It’s critical that utilities provide bill assistance programs for all their low-income households. The Coalition is concerned that this bill would allow utilities to only serve a subset of low-income households, thus lessening utilities’ responsibility to help reduce energy burden for low-income households. The Coalition is working with interested parties to address our concerns in the bill’s current form.
The work of implementation continues after the monumental Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act was passed in 2021 to eliminate environmental and health disparities among BIPOC communities and low-income households. These bills clarify HEAL Act implementation by requiring environmental justice impact statements for major new projects. This provides a needed environmental justice lens to mitigate project elements shown to worsen environmental and health disparities in overburdened communities.
Environmental impacts of lighting products – HB 1185
Mirroring similar legislation passed in Oregon last year, this bill provides an important backstop to the energy efficiency gains made in Washington and the Northwest. This would restrict the sale of mercury-containing lightbulbs by 2027 and extend the producer stewardship program for bulbs already in store inventories. LED lightbulb alternatives are affordable, attainable, and already twice as efficient as mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs.
Meanwhile, Oregon’s session doesn’t start until Monday, February 5. One of the top priorities will be the Governor’s recent nomination of Les Perkins to the Public Utility Commission. Another priority is the Governor’s big housing bill to address Oregon’s housing crisis.
There may also be some small funding bills for various programs that the legislature created in recent sessions. A couple of bills may focus on extending funding of a heat pump program, important appliances in the push to decarbonize buildings and increase their efficiency. Short sessions in Oregon are only a month long so lots can happen in a hurry. Stay tuned for updates as the session gets underway.
Energy Advocates Comments on PGE’s 2023 IRP update
Some members of the Oregon Energy Advocates group, including Green Energy Institute at Lewis and Clark, Climate Solutions, Oregon Just Transition Alliance, and the NW Energy Coalition, submitted joint comments earlier this month on Portland General Electric’s (PGE) 2023 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and Clean Energy Plan (CEP) as a part of Docket LC 80. The comments provide recommendations to ensure clear disclosures to customers around compliance with clean energy targets in HB 2021. The Energy Advocates largely agree with staff recommendations from the Public Utility Commission (PUC) related to PGE’s energy and capacity planning and transmission access. The Energy Advocates recommend further compliance analysis in the next IRP/CEP update around developing customer-side resources like community-based renewable energy, and small-scale renewables. The PUC will host an Acknowledgment Meeting this Thursday to affirm whether PGE’s IRP/CEP are reasonable to move forward with.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a final order late last month, approving Idaho Power Company’s (IPC) replacement of net energy metering with a credit-based compensation for its customers. Passing despite unanimous pushback from advocates, this resolution deals a major blow to the economic incentives that underpin the state’s rooftop solar industry. The new structure will use time-adjusted rates calculated by Idaho Power, which the Sierra Club estimates will drop compensation for rooftop solar customers from an already low 8.8 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 5.96 cents per kWh. This decision fails to sufficiently value the environmental and economic benefits of customer-side resources like rooftop solar.
The third Select Committee on Energy Resource Planning and Acquisition (SCERPA) meeting was on January 10 in Helena. SCERPA, created by NorthWestern Energy via statute after new planning rules were implemented by the MT PSC in order to implement HB 597 (2019), is comprised of state legislators, utility representatives, a consumer advocate, an independent developer and the Coalition as the public interest organization (PIO) representative, is tasked with identifying potential issues within the energy resource planning, acquisition, and approval processes in the Montana Code Annotated. To this point, utilities are focused on reducing the time between identification of resources and acquisition of those resources, turning a critical eye to increasingly important public comment and participation phases of Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) and Requests for Proposals (RFPs). As the PIO, the Coalition is focused on ensuring that public participation is maximized and that utilities meaningfully respond to public comments. The Committee is also exploring the idea of an independent monitor to oversee and ensure fairness in the IRP and RFP processes.
The agreement announced December 15th between Tribal, Federal, and state (Oregon, Washington) governments, marks a turning point in the decades-long Columbia-Snake River litigation. A particularly bright spot in the agreement is new federal investments in Tribal energy sovereignty through renewable energy development. This set of commitments includes many investments to support salmon recovery throughout the Columbia and Snake River basins. It also builds on Washington State’s energy planning process by bringing in federal resources and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to do a comprehensive energy analysis that meets the region’s climate and salmon recovery goals.
Our energy system is constantly evolving over time, and this agreement charts the path towards the next era of clean energy development that achieves our climate and salmon recovery goals while improving reliability and maintaining affordable rates in the region. For more information on the implications of this agreement, check out Nancy Hirsh’s guest commentary published in the Yakima Herald-Republic earlier this month.
Coalition Staff’s Favorite Warm Drinks!
Charlee Thompson, Policy Associate
One of my warm drink café favs is raspberry hot chocolate (hot choco with a small pump of raspberry syrup).
Fred Heutte, Senior Policy Associate
Jasmine tea – with a strawberry chocolate cream cheese danish riding along, at Crema, our local coffeeshop in Portland.
Ben Otto, Contractor
My go-to is a coffee in true Coalition style, complicated.
Lauren McCloy, Policy Director
My go-to hot drink is ginger tea with lemon and honey. Simply thinly slice fresh ginger and pour boiling water over it. Add a squeeze of lemon and a spoonful of honey and enjoy!
Jeff Bissonnette, Contractor
I’ll add another vote for hot chocolate but my twist – which comes from my son – is to put half a candy cane in the bottom of the mug and then pour the hot chocolate in (we use the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa powder container but use either almond or oat milk). The candy cane melts and gives a nice mint hot chocolate.
Support our work to accelerate the Northwest’s transition to a clean, affordable, and equitable energy future.