Read about Amy’s experience at a Sustainable Energy Workshop in her community:
After Montana’s last legislative session, it seemed that efforts to expand net metering and solar energy would not be brought to fruition anytime soon. Despite the fact that this legislation had bipartisan support, a divide remained among the people and the utility companies.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I received an invitation to the Bozeman Sustainable Energy Workshop, organized through a joint effort from NorthWestern Energy and the City of Bozeman. I couldn’t help but wonder, is there hope for a partnership on sustainable energy issues in Montana? I speculated over what each party would say, and if we will admit that it’s time to talk about climate change and the role renewable energy plays in mitigation.
I was in for a full rich day. The workshop provided an overview of NorthWestern Energy
and the City of Bozeman’s sustainability initiatives, broader solar market trends, as well as the public policies currently in place that affect solar development in Montana. Leaders from NorthWestern Energy, the City of Bozeman, and Solar Energy Program Association gave an in-depth look at Montana’s renewable energy policies, practices and challenges, and most importantly, discussed the next steps for our community to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy, with NorthWestern Energy.
The City of Bozeman and NorthWestern Energy embraced the meaning of partnership to organize this workshop, begin the dialogue, and share that they are serious about energy efficiency and renewable energy. It was expressed that all stakeholders need to work together to have meaningful change and progress. And in a great commitment to collaboration, it was announced that NorthWestern Energy will be investing $3 million in community-based sustainable energy projects in Montana, $1 million of which will be invested in the Bozeman Area.
The workshop was informative, stimulating and hopeful for it ignited a serious discussion on renewable energy. To be in the room, converse and interact with NorthWestern Energy representatives, fellow non-profits, city council officials, private utilities and invested community members proved that this is an issue a variety of people care about deeply.
Collaboration is essential to transitioning to renewable energy; it is clear that more solar will be brought on board faster if we all work with industries and utilities. In order to have the market transformation people desire, a plan that has broad stakeholder support is critical. And the only way to get to that point where we have strong bi-partisan legislation, and backing from utilities, is to include as many different perspectives in the discussion as possible- to talk about common objectives first and then negotiate around changes. The efforts made by the City of Bozeman, NorthWestern Energy and all who attended this workshop is a sign of clear progress.
There was no juggernaut or complete solution proposed (I would have been skeptical if there was) but the workshop did manage to start the conversation. We are moving the needle towards a more sustainable and equitable solution. And if these conversations and collaborations continue to happen in Bozeman, and around the state, involving all stakeholders, that needle will continue to shift.
Will this be the start of a great partnership? Will this be the start of substantial change? I’m looking forward to see.
Amy Snelling graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.S in Environmental Science and a minor in environmental humanities. While in college she was the chair of the Delaware Environmental Institute’s Student Programs Committee and the Green Liasons, both groups worked to promote environmental awareness and sustainability issues to the campus community. Amy is serving at the Yellowstone Teton Clean Energy Coalition, where she will expand the organizations sustainability series and energy literacy curriculum.