Energy experts flock to Boise for Coalition's spring conference

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The NW Energy Coalition’s spring 2015 Clean and Affordable Energy Conference drew an impressive array of Northwest business, utility, regulatory, science and conservation experts and leaders to Boise, Idaho, on May 29-30.

Friday events

On Friday, more than 100 came to hear and participate in lively discussions of critical Northwest energy challenges:

  • Integrating the next wave of new renewables – including home-sited resources – into the power system
  • Determining the needs and costs for transmission additions or operational changes to facilitate delivery of clean energy
  • Assessing the additional stress climate change is putting on endangered Columbia Basin salmon
  • Fashioning the next official blueprint of our regional energy future, the 7th Northwest Power and Conservation Plan.

Aimée Christensen of Sun Valley, Idaho, who guided Google’s first climate and energy initiatives, negotiated the first bilateral climate change agreements and wrote the first university endowment investment policy on climate change, started things off with a keynote address linking local and global climate action. Subsequent speakers referred to her remarks throughout the day.

In the 7th Plan panel, NWEC policy director Wendy Gerlitz outlined the Coalition’s vision for the plan, now being developed by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. She previewed a package of Coalition white papers addressing the need for the plan to fully capture energy efficiency potential, to incorporate rising costs of coal power coming from plants both inside and outside the regional boundaries, and to reflect emerging technologies at what’s often called the “grid edge.”

Jim Yost, one of Idaho’s two Council members, cautioned against setting higher energy efficiency targets when some utilities are facing flat or falling loads and opposed including projected savings from new or developing technologies. These different perspectives will play out as the 7th Plan work proceeds.

Transmission projects always come with costs and controversy. But some new lines likely will be needed to bring utility-scale renewable energy to consumers. Panelists including Idaho Power Co.’s Dave Angell and renewables/clean energy advocates addressed two current projects involving Idaho, Gateway West and Boardman-to-Hemingway. They also looked at technologies and inter-regional agreements such as energy imbalance markets that can make existing transmission more efficient.

Former Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game biologist Bert Bowler gave an update on the actual recovery status of federally listed Columbia-Snake river salmon stocks. He also discussed the importance of endangered Snake River salmon stocks to regionwide wild salmon preservation and noted the rising threats of warming waters and deteriorating ocean conditions.

Saturday events

On Saturday, attendees took a fascinating tour of the highly energy efficient CSHQA office building in Boise prior to the general membership meeting. The meeting itself featured consensus election of several new board members. They are:

  • Joseph Bogaard, Save Our wild Salmon
  • Hannah Hacker, Energy Trust of Oregon
  • Peter Mostow, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
  • Megan Owen, McKinstry
  • Ben Otto, Idaho Conservation League

The members also accepted and welcomed two new organizations into the fold – the Oregon and Washington state chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility.


The conference was made possible by generous sponsorships from Opower, the J.R. Simplot Co., U.S. Geothermal Inc., the City of Boise, EnergySavvy, Enviroissues, Richardson Adams PLLC, EDP Renewables and the Bonneville Power Administration. Community partners include the Idaho Clean Energy Association, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Rivers United, Northwest Environmental Business Council, Snake River Alliance and the US Green Building Council, Idaho Chapter

The Coalition’s next NW Clean and Affordable Energy Conference is slated for Dec. 3-4 in Seattle.


Click on the links below to find speaker slides: