Current Board Chair, Ben Otto, expresses gratitude towards Coalition staff and the amount of work that has been able to move forward. Financially, we are in a strong place – primarily due to the careful financial management.
Executive Director, Nancy Hirsh, provided an overview of our mission and a more detailed program update is included in the slides from the meeting. She reminded members that NWEC works to inform on policies, utilities, and regulatory practices with an eye of transitioning to a clean energy economy. We do this by increasing the value of flexible demand, storage, and demand response so that all of our resources can meet the regions need. She reported that the process of hiring a Policy Director is moving forward and we hope to have a new staff person on board in January.
New Member Applications
We received two new member applications, one from FlexCharging, who is interested in participating in regional conversations about Electric Vehicles (EV) and demand flexibility. The second, is from Olympia Community Solar, who wants to steward an equitable transition to clean energy through community solar. The current membership moved to approve these member applications.
Two member updates were submitted after the meeting and links are included here:
In Idaho, we are not actively engaged in the legislature. This past election resulted in a more conservative lean on policy issues, in particular building codes and standards may be at risk.
Regarding regulatory toplines, we have remained engaged in net metering, energy efficiency, and Idaho Power Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). For energy efficiency, we have submitted comments to the PUC. For Idaho Power IRP, comments will be due January 2nd.
Montana elections resulted in a change in Governor and loss of democratic seats in the senate. We will continue to move forward with clean energy initiatives in order to not lose ground on our legislative priorities. In addition, the elected members of the Public Service Commission took a lean toward being even more conservative. It is not clear how this will impact utility regulatory issues.
In late October, NorthWestern Energy withdrew its application to purchase additional ownership of Colstrip Unit 4. We look forward to working with all stakeholders in developing a plan for closure of Colstrip Unit 3 and Unit 4.
In the coming months, we will continue to work on demand-side management and upgrades for the utilities, as well as to update the IRP planning process.
In Oregon, the elections resulted in Democrats maintaining a supermajority, though Republicans picked up some seats to make the margin slightly less. We have been working on our legislative strategy and expect for session to begin in late January, and continue virtually. Gov. Brown has two years left in her term, with priorities including; COVID-19 relief, wildfire and budget.
The top three focus areas for NWEC this year are:
- Appliance standards set by the Oregon Department of Energy, which build on already established energy efficiency standards.
- Public Purpose Charge Revamp, and the extension of this policy. Changes include moving energy efficiency out of public purpose charge and into rates, increasing low-income weatherization funds.
- PUC Equity Bill, which expands intervenor funding so that representatives of Environmental Justice communities can be compensated for their work at the PUC. This would also authorize energy burden-specific rate designs.
On the regulatory side, here are the following updates:
- Distribution System Planning (PUC): This includes updating guidelines for utilities to file their first plans, which will likely happen in fall of 2021. Working to make the utility DSP process inclusive of community voices is a priority of the Coalition.
- Executive Order 20-04 Implementation: This updates Oregon GHG emissions standards while protecting vulnerable communities from impacts of climate change. There are dozens of actions, agencies and policies rolling out related to the EO. NWEC is primarily focused on the PUC.
- Community Solar: As of July 23, 2020, there are approved projects that reach those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to solar. We are staying engaged to uphold legislative intent.
- ODOE Biennial Energy Report: This came out on November 1. For more information, view the report here.
In Washington, we heard updates on the State Energy Strategy, Regulatory Updates, the Energy Code, and Transportation Electrification.
Washington State Energy Strategy: In 2019, legislation directed updates to the state’s energy strategy, covering four areas – transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity. These efforts are led by the Department of Commerce with consultant support through the Clean Energy Transition Institute. It is supported by an advisory group and chaired by Nancy Hirsh (NWEC, Executive Director), and Reeves Clippard (Owner, A&R Solar). The new draft of the Washington State Energy Strategy will be available on November 30, and the public hearing is scheduled for December 7.
Legislative Updates: As a result of the 2020 elections, we now have the most diverse legislature we’ve ever had in Washington. The Legislative session will begin on January 11, virtually. The focus will likely be on COVID-19 response, budget, and systemic racial inequity. The Environmental Priorities Coalition will be supporting budget, transportation revenue, and a clean fuels standard. Coalition staff anticipate working on: accessible public charging and standardization of it, carbon pricing and revenue related to budget shortfall, and any legislation related to implementing the State Energy Strategy. We will also be tracking and supporting state funding for clean energy investments, including the Clean Energy Fund, energy retrofits for public buildings, and the state’s weatherization program.
Regulatory Updates: The rulemaking for the clean building performance standard that passed in 2019’s legislative session finished in November 2020. This sets the standards for large commercial buildings in the state. Compliance for this law will happen in late 2020’s (2026 – 2028). We are also continuing work on Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) rulemakings, utility Integrated Resource Plans, and Zero Emission Vehicle Standard.
Seattle Energy Code: It is being updated right now, and affects larger commercial and multi-family buildings (4+ floors). This will begin the transition away from fossil fuels, and will be before Seattle City Council in January. The code will go into effect in early 2021, and aims to increase efficiency, provide more opportunities for on-site solar, and transition away from many uses of fossil fuels for space and water heating.
Transportation Electrification: Puget Sound Energy drafted a Transportation Electrification Plan. Avista and Seattle City Light’s Transportation Electrification plans were approved in October 2020.
There have been differences in the way Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana have reacted to COVID-19. In Washington, the moratorium on utility shutoffs was extended. In Oregon, NWEC has been involved in commission proceedings for consumer protections and utilities have agreed to a moratorium until the beginning of April.
In our most recent blog post we dive into COVID-19 Consumer Protection Updates and best practices we have seen utilities do in the last six months.
2021 Northwest Power Plan: NWEC made a commitment and goal 40 years ago to continuously work on the Power Plan. This is a regional process with a focus on BPA, that comes out every 5 years. It includes a 20-year load forecast, resource plan and 5-year action plan. It also gives a direction to BPA on acquiring energy efficiency resources. A key development has been a climate adjusted baseline. Energy efficiency continues as the #1 resource priority, and there is a major opportunity for flexible demand and demand response. NWEC will continue to focus on energy efficiency, demand response and other demand side resources that will balance the system, accelerate the clean transition, and provide immediate and ongoing benefits to customers. A draft will be ready in March/ April 2021, with a 60-day public comment period. There will be public hearings in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, with the final plan coming late summer 2021.
Resource Adequacy, Challenge and Opportunity: We need enough resources, supply, demand, and storage resources to keep the lights on at all hours. We have a shared power grid, so if one area is short, we will all feel it. The challenge is that we already have stress conditions in late winter and late summer, and coal retirement and climate change create increased uncertainty. The opportunity is a balanced portfolio of new and clean resources.
Northwest Power Pool Resource Adequacy Program: The program is in development for full implementation in 2024. The opportunity is that regional coordination can increase reliability, decrease costs, and accelerate clean energy. The challenge is that it’s an “insider game” for the next year.
Salmon and Energy: Climate change has significant impacts on community, fish and wildlife. This is seen by warmer temperatures in the rivers during the summer. We are starting to see more political interest in salmon recovery from policy makers. The federal agencies recently finalized biological opinion on Columbia River operations, will not lead to recovery. NWEC is working closely with allies on this issue. Our role is to look at the electric system and assess changes that would help salmon recover. The lower Snake River dams hinder access to thousands of acres of pristine spawning habitat in Idaho and Oregon. For 20 years the Coalition has been involved in litigation challenging five biological opinions. Litigants in this long-standing challenge have filed another 60-day notice of potential to go back to court. A very exciting development is the recent letter from the four NW governors who have agreed to work together to come up with long-term solutions to restore salmon in the region. NWEC will continue to engage with this Governor’s process.
Each year, the NW Energy Coalition presents a series of awards to organizations or individuals striving towards a clean energy future. We are proud to present the following awards to this year’s 2020 recipients.
- Doug Still Community Organizing Award: Community Energy Project
- Ben Olsen Memorial Conservation Eagle Award: Jim Jensen
- Headwaters Award: Ken Dragoon
4 under 40:
- Evan Ramsey, Bonneville Environmental Foundation
- Jessica Zimmerle, Earth Ministry
- Katrina Peterson, Puget Sound Sage
- Andrew Valainis, Montana Renewable Energy Association
For more information on the award recipients, take a look at our in-depth article on each one.
For the 2020 Fall Member Meeting PowerPoint: