Coalition conference featuring Montana governor
and NorthWestern Energy CEO draws big crowd in Missoula
Overflow crowds greeted Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, NorthWestern Energy CEO Bob Rowe, and a host of renewable energy and energy efficiency advocates and providers at the Spring 2016 NW Clean & Affordable Energy Conference in Missoula on May 19.
More than 120 people from around the region attended this edition of the NW Energy Coalition’s twice-yearly conference, which rotates through Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Montana. Coalition members returned the next day to elect board members, select annual award winners and strategize.
Conference highlights included Gov. Bullock’s keynote address and a wide-ranging “conversation” between NorthWestern’s Rowe and attendees, moderated by Coalition executive director Nancy Hirsh.
Bullock and Rowe
“Montana ranks third for wind potential,” Bullock said. “If Kansas continues with its state budget woes and Texas succeeds in seceding from the union, we’ll be No. 1.” He also noted the state’s solar resource and the job-creation possibilities in clean energy development and climate action.
Rowe said NorthWestern’s power generation base is now primarily hydropower, which best meets the utility’s load pattern and prepares the utility for future closure of the Colstrip, Mont., coal units. He saw virtue in diversifying NWE’s renewables holdings beyond hydro and wind, but said additional resources need to meet customer demand. Rowe also called energy efficiency “our No. 1 resource,” but said it poses risks for the corporation.
Panels on carbon emissions reduction opportunities, realizing Montana’s solar potential and bringing energy efficiency to rural and other hard-to-reach markets filled out the program.
Issues discussed included boosting involvement in net metering (primarily distributed solar), which currently amounts to only about one-tenth of 1% of NWE’s retail sales, greater attention to low-income weatherization, the need for a smarter and better-connected Western electricity grid, and assuring that the new clean energy jobs replacing well-paid coal energy jobs come with living wages.
Many thanks to our conference sponsors: NorthWestern Energy, AirWorks Heating and Cooling Solutions, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, M+R Strategic Services, Energy Keepers, Inc., and Alternative Energy Resources Organization.
Thanks also to Coalition members and allies who turned out, participated in and provided energy to discussions, and made the conference and membership meetings so successful.
Friday featured state/provincial, low-income and utility caucus meetings, the full membership meeting and the board meeting.
Members re-elected board chair Megan Decker, board treasurer George Pohndorf and board member Jeff Bissonette to the Coalition board of directors. Bissonnette recently became executive director of the Oregon Solar Industries Asso., whose application for Coalition membership was approved.
Two new board members were added. Membership elected Warm Springs tribal member Direlle Calica, the energy program advisor to the Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians and managing partner in the law firm of Kanim Associates LLC. The Montana caucus selected Jeff Fox of Renewable Northwest to fill its caucus chair and board representative position.
Members also selected winners of the Coalition’s three annual awards:
- The Lummi Nation of northwest Washington and southern British Columbia won the Bob Olsen Pacific Northwest Conservation Eagle Award for its successful opposition to a proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point, Wash. The Eagle goes to a group or individual other than a Coalition staff or board member who has gone above and beyond in helping to build a clean, affordable and equitable energy future for the Northwest.
- Margie Harris, who is retiring after leading the Energy Trust of Oregon for its entire 15-year existence, won the Headwaters Award for “one of our own” who has gone above and beyond in helping to build a clean, affordable and equitable energy future for the Northwest.
- Longtime Save Our wild Salmon outreach director and current SOS executive director Joseph Bogaard won the Doug Still Memorial Community Organizing Award honoring individuals or organizations for their commitment to engaging citizens directly in action for a clean, affordable and equitable energy future.
Members also voted to commend the organizations that collaborated to pass Oregon’s Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Act this past legislative session, and the victorious plaintiffs in the suit against federal agencies’ recovery plan (Biological Opinion) for wild salmon in the Columbia-Snake basin. Both commendation groups include several Coalition members and the Coalition itself.
All will receive their awards during the Coalition’s Fall 2016 NW Clean & Affordable Energy Conference and Awards Gala Nov. 17-18 in Portland, Ore. Save the dates and stay tuned for agenda announcements.
- Panel 1: Carbon emissions reduction opportunities
- Panel 2: Montana’s solar potential and policy environment
- Panel 3: Energy efficiency in rural and other hard-to-reach markets
- Renewable energy advocates discuss future of traditional utility companies (Missoulian)
- Clean Energy Conference to Help Chart Path to Renewables in Idaho (Public News Service)