NEEA board adopts new 5-year strategic plan with lean budget, leaving long-term energy savings at risk

Despite hundreds of individual comments and letters, including one signed by the NW Energy Coalition and 21 other organizations, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance board has decided to stick with a budget almost 30% percent below the previous 5-year budget.

Founded in 1996, NEEA overcomes utility territory boundaries and budgetary time constraints to take advantage of large savings opportunities. It works to reset manufacturing baselines and transform markets for electricity services and products. NEEA provides the region’s lowest cost energy efficiency savings, thus benefitting both the environment and consumers.

Energy efficiency advocates urged NEEA’s board – largely comprised of utilities that fund Alliance efforts – to revise its proposed 30% reduction in the core budget, which threatens to leave significant market transformation opportunities untapped.

For example, several stakeholders recommended increasing the budget for developing market strategy and identifying emerging technologies. The board instead chose to redirect funds from the new initiatives category. Thus a pot of dedicated resources to capture special opportunities when the moment is right is being treated as a slush fund to cover general budget needs. The Board pledges to consider requests in the future to increase the budget should the need arise.

The NEEA board also adopted a new approach that allows funders to opt-in or opt-out of certain programs. The Coalition was very concerned about the uncertainty this strategy could bring to program delivery. However, it now appears that most of NEEA’s funders are opting into all the programs.

Meanwhile, the board is considering such critical issues as proposed changes to NEEA’s governance structure and bylaws. The board did vote to improve the transparency of some of its decision-making, but put off any decision to limit its use of closed executive sessions.  It also tabled a vote on adding two non-funders (state representatives) to the board and allowing a non-funder on the executive board. Next month’s board meeting may feature further discussion of and possible decisions on these governance issues

Now that the 5-year budget has been adopted, NW Energy Coalition and other clean energy advocates will work to ensure that NEEA maintains its effectiveness and helps the region achieve all the cost-effective energy efficiency we can get to reduce climate pollution and consumers’ bills. This is not the time to retreat on energy efficiency, our cheapest, cleanest and quickest new energy resource.

Stay tuned.

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