A new year. With so much uncertainty of what the next few will bring for environmental and climate work, it’s understandable to feel unease as we press onward. Still, this past year brought important media attention and discussions to climate change in a way that motivates and excites us to keep the conversation growing. So, what better way to kick off a year of renewed focus and activity on climate change than with a beer, a handful of popcorn, and a community meetup on renewable energy? We thought so, too.
Our January meetup was jam-packed with updates from some of Missoula’s key players in the renewable energy world. Diana Maneta, Missoula County’s Energy Conservation and Sustainability Coordinator, gave us the run-down on cryptocurrency and how its current effects on Missoula County could continue to worsen. Cryptocurrency mining, such as the digital currency Bitcoin, is a major energy user that is steadily finding a foothold in Montana. Our state’s cool temperatures and low energy prices have been too good to resist for this industry, and we are already feeling its effects. A cryptocurrency facility in Bonner is estimated to have already increased the county’s energy use by 20%, and representatives have stated publicly that they intend to triple the size of the facility in the near future.
Cryptocurrency is a daunting issue, but our own Missoula County is at the forefront of addressing the industry’s effects, as Diana and others work to understand options to regulate the industry’s impacts and ways to motivate companies to make greener decisions (what if these facilities were required to have solar panels on their roofs to offset their energy use?). We’ll be closely following any developments on this issue and we encourage you all to do the same. For more info, check out our Advocacy page.
After a crash course on Bitcoin, we transitioned our discussion to some direct action items and things to look out for during Montana’s 2019 legislative session happening right now. Andrew Valainis, the Executive Director of Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA), and his team are watching closely for bills that could help and harm renewable energy transitions throughout the state. We’ll do our best to keep you updated (again, via our Advocacy page), but we also recommend getting on MREA’s email list. MREA does an excellent job here of summarizing the situation and laying out what they expect to see in the coming months. Here are two big things to look out for:
Despite potential challenges, Andrew reminded us that now is still a good time to go solar if you can! We’ve got resources (including 2 new short videos!) HERE.
We’re so grateful for everyone who showed up to delve into these complicated issues with us at this last meetup. These conversations always end in an electric atmosphere (pun intended) with folks riled and ready to get stuff done. In addition to those topics discussed at the meetup, we need to give one more shoutout to an important event happening this week. Our community is currently in the midst of developing Missoula’s Downtown Master Plan, an exciting and meaningful process where community members have the opportunity to share their visions and hopes for the future of downtown Missoula. Some things we’re personally advocating for are more sustainable transportation infrastructure, energy-efficient buildings, climate resilient roofs, and more urban trees to combat the heat island effect. Again, check out our updated Advocacy page for more details on how you can get involved in-person, or share your comments and thoughts through this online form.