Yesterday, Governor Steve Bullock was on hand at the Payne Native American Center on the UM campus to promote his new plan for Montana’s electrical power sector. Missoula Mayor John Engen, Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA) executive director Diana Maneta, and Missoula Federal Credit Union (MFCU) CEO Jack Lawson shared the stage with the Governor for a rather quick (but engaging!) conversation about clean energy in our state, sponsored by Charge Montana.
Climate Smart was there and here’s what caught our attention. We welcome your thoughts.
First, the Governor highlighted key goals contained in this energy “blueprint” that he hopes to achieve by 2025, including:
And it’s encouraging that the Governor’s vision includes capitalizing on Montana’s abundant clean energy resources – especially solar. We know energy is an important sector of our state economy, and as MREA’s Maneta reminded us, it is a sector in transition. Already, nearby states who buy our energy are moving away from coal and towards renewables like wind and solar power. As the price of solar continues to drop, doubling solar investment is a no-brainer. In fact, we think we could beat that goal handily: solar currently makes up a mere 0.1% of total electricity generation in Montana, even though it has the potential to meet 28% of our electricity need. Let the sun shine!
An important piece of this puzzle is, of course, funding. MFCU has been a key partner in the Solarize Missoula campaign, and they are eager to find more creative ways to support renewable energy. As Lawson explained, there are three great reasons for MFCU to partner on clean energy: it aligns with their mission of building members’ financial stability, it reflects their members’ desire for their dollars to have a positive social impact, and dropping costs mean it’s also just good business!
Done right, renewable energy benefits everyone. Just look at the solar industry, which is growing by leaps and bounds. That’s especially good news for jobs. Nationwide, over 200,000 people are employed in the solar industry – nearly triple the number in coal – and that number is expected to double by 2020. In 2015, the solar industry added jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. We’re excited to hear the Governor’s support for harnessing the potential of solar to provide good jobs and build a more resilient energy economy, able to meet the challenges of a changing climate. We liked what Mayor Engen said: the Governor’s plan represents an opportunity to “determine our future instead of stumbling into it.”
We’re thrilled so many community leaders and members came out mid-morning and mid-week to engage in this mid-transition energy discussion. Missoula is right in the middle of the solutions – a great place to be. What do you think?