On July 11-13, WORC brought together ten leaders and four staff from five of eight WORC members groups to our Billings headquarters, the Home on the Range, for a meeting of the Clean and Renewable Energy Campaign Team. It was the first gathering of leaders working on various clean energy campaigns in a number of years.
The purpose of meeting was to determine the best organizing options and opportunities to advance a clean energy agenda in the WORC states over the next five years at the local, state and regional level.
The meeting provided member groups an opportunity to report out and share the developments on their current and planned clean energy campaigns, which range from state legislation to make financing available for clean energy and energy efficiency upgrades to making rural electric cooperatives more transparent and accountable.
Sharp guest speakers
Participants heard from a variety of guest speakers via video conferencing to help the team better understand and determine potential regional campaigns, including:
- Sara Kendall, WORC DC Director
- Chris Porter, a member-leader with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s campaign, Empower Kentucky
- Jim Heneghan, Renewable Energy Engineer at the Delta-Montrose Electric Association coop in western Colorado
- John Farrell, Director of Democratic Energy at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
The regional campaigns considered:
- Organizing for including clean energy state plans under the EPA’s Clean Power Plan
- Transforming Rural Electric Cooperatives
- Rewriting/reforming rules in our local communities (like municipal building codes for energy efficiency)
- Coordinating state legislative strategy on Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) or net-metering legislation
Members discussed and evaluated how these potential campaigns stacked up against our issue criteria (clear solution and decision-makers, shared strategies, builds our organizations, at least three groups engaged, etc).
Regional clean energy campaign
Based on our discussions, it seemed that no one potential policy or one shared target met the minimum criteria that at least three member groups are actively engaged in working on that policy or target. However, it was clear that there’s a variety of campaign policies and targets all aimed at increasing access to distributed renewable energy, including:
- Campaigns to pass PACE-enabling legislation at the state legislatures, and local campaigns in Colorado and Idaho to win support for PACE programs in counties and cities,
- Campaigns to win access to distributed, renewable energy at the rural electric coops,
- Campaigns for rules like net-metering and avoided cost legislation, and
- Municipal and county-level campaigns for clean energy, like community investment in solar panels on public building, green jobs worker training programs, etc.
Each member group committed to take ideas back to their clean energy committees, leaders, or board for feedback and buy-in on the proposed regional campaign.
Northern Plains Resource Council member Mary Fitzpatrick of Billings, Montana, was selected as interim Chair of the Campaign Team at least until the next face-to-face meeting in 2017.
Members said they valued the opportunity to meet in person, hear what the other groups’ clean energy campaigns and priorities, learn from sharp guest speakers and prioritize a potential regional campaign.