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Reps Join to Introduce Measure Extending Ethanol Tax Credits

Secreta Joined by advocates of America's renewable fuels industry, Congressman Earl Pomeroy and Congressman John Shimkus recently unveiled legislation that would extend the current Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), the Small Ethanol Producers Tax Credit and tariff on imported ethanol, for five years. The measure would also extend the Cellulosic Ethanol Production Tax Credit for three years. A Renewable Fuels Association study released last week shows that if the VEETC credit is allowed to expire at the end of this year, it would cost 112,000 jobs and reduce domestic ethanol production by 38 percent - a loss of production that would be replaced with imported fuels. "At a time when our economy is struggling, we cannot afford to let these tax incentives expire and stymie the growth we have seen in our ethanol industry," Rep. Pomeroy said. "This is a bipartisan bill that will promote not only economic growth, but also the transformation of our energy industry from one that is reliant on foreign oil to one that is based on energy that's grown in farm fields in the heartland of America." Rep. Shimkus said, "Extending the ethanol and cellulosic tax credits helps give much needed certainty to the industry and will continue to help our nation's energy security." The bill's sponsors note that in 2009, tax revenue from domestic ethanol production brought in $8.4 billion in federal revenue, or $3.4 billion more than the cost of the credit. Read more.

Montana Tribal Communities Share in $3.7 Million in Renewable Energy Project Grants

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced that the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development has awarded $3.7 million to tribes that are developing renewable energy resources for their communities. Access to these resources will allow these communities to develop jobs and additional economic opportunities on their reservations, while decreasing their reliance on fossil fuels. Among the successful projects, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) of the Flathead Reservation was awarded $260,000 for a hydroelectric project. Hydroelectric technology takes advantage of the energy created from falling water. See the full press release.

Huls Dairy Wins National Award

Huls Dairy of Corvallis was chosen among 75 winners of the 2010 Blue Ribbon Small Business Award®, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce award that recognizes small businesses for their critical role in creating jobs and growing the economy. 

Huls Dairy is a fifth-generation sustainable dairy farm in the Bitterroot Valley.  The farm installed a methane digester some years ago, which converts animal manure into electric energy that can be used to power the farm. The methane digester is currently the only such system installed in Montana.

The top winner for the award will be chosen from seven finalists in May. Read more.

Wind Industry Applauds Governors' Wind Energy Coalition Recommendations

The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition has released its 2010 recommendations. “T his is the first set of comprehensive wind energy recommendations ever submitted to Congress by a group of the nation’s governors,” said Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri. “These recommendations could not be more timely. Congressional action on the energy bill seems to have stalled. It is our hope that these recommendations — and the national bipartisan consensus they represent — will advance the energy deliberations now under way in Congress.” The Governors are calling for the following actions by Congress and the Obama Administration:

·  Adopt a national renewable electricity standard.

·  Develop new interstate electric transmission system infrastructure as needed to provide access to premier renewable energy resources both onshore and offshore.

·  Fully support coastal, deep water, and offshore wind energy technology and transmission research and development.

·  Streamline permitting processes for both offshore and onshore wind energy development projects.

·  Expand the U.S. Department of Energy’s work with the states and the wind industry to accelerate innovation.

·  Extend the Treasury Department grant program in lieu of the investment tax credit and adopt a long-term renewable energy tax production tax credit with provisions to broaden the pool of eligible investors.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is praising the recommendations. “The Governors’ recommendations to the President and to Congress show that there is a strong agreement that an interstate transmission infrastructure and Renewable Electricity Standard are needed and welcome from the point of view of the states and not just the national public interest,” AWEA CEO Denis Bode said.  “The Governors know this because they are on the front lines of the battle to attract manufacturing investment and create jobs, and they see that renewable energy development brings jobs to their states.  Learn more about the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition at http://www.governorswindenergycoalition.org/ .

NorthWestern Energy Offers Energy Management Solutions

NorthWestern Energy has launched its new  Energy Management Solutionsa free technical assistance service that provides technical, business, research and information assistance quickly and easilyto the utility's commercial and industrial customers. The Energy Management Solutions service includes an online library of information with a database of technical business and engineering documents and resources. You can browse through the library topics or use the powerful keyword search engine to find the information you need. The online portal also includes targeted research tools (for patent searches, MSDS documents, company profile information, workplace posters, and more) and benchmark industry data.

If you can't find exactly what you need in the library, Energy Management Solutions includes a technical, marketing and problem-solving hotline service that NorthWestern Energy also provides free to the utility's customers. There is no usage limit, all questions and answers are held in strict confidence, and answers are typically issued within 24-48 hours.

New Alternative Energy Company in Idaho to Assemble and Install Wind Turbines

A new alternative energy company based in Pocatello, Idaho, has announced that it will assemble and install residential- and agricultural-scale vertical wind turbines. River’s Edge Energy, Inc. has contracted with All Bright International to sell and install wind turbines in all 50 states. According to the company’s press release, vertical turbines are the most efficient because “they allow for twice the generation of power with 50% less wind --even in as little as 4 mph wind speeds.” The company further states that in 90 percent of applications, the payback for the investment is about two to five years, with unused power net metered and purchased back by the local utility company. River’s Edge Energy, Inc. plans to offer a turnkey system in three markets: residential, agriculture and small scale wind farms. The company will provide all the necessary resources and information on federal and state tax credits, and access to some of the billions in stimulus funds set aside for the wind industry, net metering, financing resources, and many others to help set up a single small scale wind turbine or multiple turbines. Read the full press release.

Federal Energy Efficiency Proposals Could Create 333,000 Jobs in 2010

Proposed federal energy efficiency jobs provisions would create about 333,000 jobs in 2010 and then 184,000 jobs in 2011 as funding begins to ramp down, according to a new analysis released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).The proposed programs include residential and commercial retrofit programs and an energy-efficient manufacturing grant program. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment will be holding hearings on these issues this week.

"The energy efficiency programs in these proposals would create jobs because energy efficiency improvements are labor intensive and net job creators. These programs would produce more construction and service-sector jobs than those energy sector jobs lost from reduced energy consumption," said Steven Nadel, ACEEE Executive Director. "In addition, these programs would continue creating small numbers of jobs even after the stimulus period is over, because energy bill savings enable consumers and businesses to spend that money elsewhere in the economy."

Most of the products used in buildings retrofits (such as insulation and windows) are manufactured in the United States. In addition, construction jobs involved in the projects cannot be outsourced and would provide vital local jobs in communities across the country. These provisions would represent good investments in three important sectors of the U.S. economy as they focus on improving productivity; creating jobs; and leveraging government, consumer, and business funds in the best way possible. Read the full press release.

Solar Making Gains, Keeping Missoula Companies Busy

Solar energy is making gains in the market, due to a variety of factors, including less expensive solar panels, more tax credits and other incentives, high costs of “conventional” energy, and changes in the way people think about renewable energy. These changes are creating more business for solar companies in Missoula, according to a report in the Missoulian, despite the economic downturn felt in many other sectors. Solar still poses some challenges, though, such as high costs, says the article. More…

U.S. Wind Energy Industry Installed Nearly 10,000 MW in 2009

The U.S. wind industry installed nearly 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind turbines in 2009, increasing its generating capacity by 39%, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The industry group credited the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the record-breaking year, which topped 2008 by nearly 19%. AWEA's fourth quarter report, released on January 26, places wind power neck-and-neck with natural gas as the leading source of new electricity generation for the country. Together, the two account for about 80% of the new capacity added in the country last year. The new wind capacity is enough to serve more than 2.4 million homes.

With 4,041 MW completed, the fourth quarter was the strongest in the year but still lower than the fourth quarter of 2008. Overall, the 9,922 MW installed in 2009 brought the total wind power generating capacity in the United States to more than 35,000 MW. More...

NorthWestern Energy Offers Tips for Choosing an Energy Efficiency Contractor

NorthWestern Energy reminds Montana consumers to study their options carefully when selecting a contractor to perform energy efficiency work in their homes.

Increased attention to energy efficiency along with utility rebates and state and federal tax credits have more Montanans looking to installers to perform work in their homes. In addition, numerous new businesses selling energy efficiency products and services are entering the market. NorthWestern Energy customers should note that although the utility offers rebates for qualifying energy efficiency improvements, it does not endorse products or contractors.

“We encourage customers to make qualifying energy efficiency improvements in their homes and customer satisfaction and safety are important to us,” said Bill Thomas, NorthWestern Energy Manager of Regulatory Support Services. “That’s why we’re offering tips to help customers identify the contractor they are comfortable with to install measures for which NorthWestern Energy offers rebates.” The utility offers a list of Preferred Contractors who are licensed and insured, and who agree to follow the E+ program requirements as a start. “As with any investment in your home,” Thomas adds, “It’s a good idea to check credentials and shop around.” Read the full story and get the tips!

Honda and Toyota Unveil New Hybrids at the Detroit Auto Show

American Honda Motor Company and Toyota Motor Sales unveiled new dedicated hybrid vehicles on January 11 at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Michigan. The 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid coupe, set to go on sale in the United States in late summer, is powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder i-VTEC engine paired with a 10-kilowatt motor to deliver up to 122 horsepower. The two-seat car introduces a three-mode drive system that allows the driver to select between sport, economy, and normal driving modes. The coupe comes with a six-speed manual transmission, but a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is also available. Honda expects the CVT-equipped CR-Z to achieve 36 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, while the fuel economy of the manual transmission model should drop to 31 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. See the Honda press release and the Honda NAIAS Web site.

Toyota unveiled the FT-CH, which is 22 inches shorter than the Prius. While the automaker didn't divulge the new model's fuel economy, it noted that the FT-CH would be lighter and even more fuel efficient than Prius, targeting a lower price point than Prius. It said the addition was part of its strategy to offer a wider variety of conventional hybrid choices. The company said it plans to begin introducing plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles in model year 2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in 2015 in global markets. See the Toyota press release.

Expert Panel Concludes Wind Turbine Sounds Not Harmful To Human Health

A multidisciplinary panel has concluded that the sounds generated by wind turbines are not harmful to human health, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has announced. Comprised of medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, the panel undertook extensive review, analysis, and discussion of the large body of peer-reviewed literature, specifically with regard to sound produced by wind turbines. The expert panel was established by AWEA and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) to review all current literature available on the issue of perceived health effects of wind turbines.

"The panel’s multidisciplinary approach helped to fully explore the many published scientific reports related to the potential impact of wind turbines on people’s health," said Dr. Robert J. McCunney, one of the authors of the study and an occupational/environmental medicine physician and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "There is no evidence that the sounds, nor the sub-audible vibrations, emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects on humans."

"The objective of the panel was to provide an authoritative, scientific reference document for those making legislative and regulatory decisions about wind turbine developments," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. "This study is another indication that wind is one of the most environmentally benign sources of electricity available." Read the full news release.

Renewable Energy Developers Urge Support of Clean Energy Legislation to Help Rural Montana Economy

Executives of ten renewable energy businesses and organizations operating in Montana have sent a letter urging Senator Baucus and Senator Tester to support the enactment of clean energy and climate legislation. 

In the letter, the leaders ask the senators to support the enactment of energy and climate legislation.  They explain that a comprehensive climate and energy bill will “generate jobs, create new markets, stabilize energy prices, reduce the country’s dependence on foreign sources of energy, and address the threat from climate change.”  Read the full news release.

EPA Launches Green Homes Website

Home owners, buyers and renters have a new resource for going green indoors and outdoors. EPA’s new Green Homes Website will help people make their homes greener with tips on reducing energy consumption, carbon footprints, waste generation and water usage, as well as improving indoor air quality.

The latest federal survey of American housing (2007) reported 128 million housing units across the U.S., accounting for nearly 54 percent of national energy use and nearly 31 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, the most common greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

Many green building practices and technologies have yet to make a dent in the existing residential market, in part because it is hard for people to find clear, consolidated, readily accessible, and credible information. The Green Homes Website addresses that need by providing guidance on approaches to greening each room of the home as well as the surrounding yard. Information also is available on building new homes and finding an energy- efficient mortgage, which takes into account the savings derived from energy efficient homes to enable the applicant to qualify for better terms.

Renters will find information to help them identify a green property before moving in and tips for working with their landlord to add green features to an existing property. Users can also find references, such as a list of common green home terms, and links to dozens of EPA Websites with more specific information on a wide variety of green home topics.

Innovative Partnership to Develop Community Based Biomass Power in Montana

NorthWestern Energy and the Montana Community Development Corporation (MCDC) are partnering with eight Montana sawmills and public and private landowners to help develop community-based biomass power in Montana.  The partnership will create a coordinated business plan to enable the production of wood-fueled power in the state.  
 
The joint effort includes every player in the chain of biomass power production including owners of existing forest products facilities, public and private landowners and a regional power purchaser.  “Bringing all the essential players to the table is what makes this partnership so unique,” says Rosalie Cates, President of MCDC. Read the full press release.

NCAT Releases Report on Farm Energy Audits

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) in Butte has released a new report, "Farm Energy Audits:
Availability, Usefulness, and Cost
."

Based on interviews with dozens of audit providers, agencies, utilities, farming and energy organizations, as well as hundreds of agricultural producers from around the U.S., the report offers recommendations for improving energy efficiency efforts in rural areas.

The availability of energy audits remains extremely limited in most rural parts of the country. The demand for farm energy audits has recently increased, though, partly because audits are required and encouraged by a major USDA grant and loan program: the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). From 2003 to 2008, this program awarded over $140 million in grants to 2,035 energy projects in all 50 states. The NCAT report includes a detailed discussion of the role of energy audits in the REAP program, and answers frequently asked questions about meeting the requirements of the program. Read the full press release.

Treasury Dept. Allocates $2.2 Billion in Renewable Energy Bonds

The U.S. Department of Treasury announced on October 27 a new allocation of Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) totaling $2.2 billion for 805 recipients across the country. These energy bonds are designed to help government agencies, public power providers, and cooperative electric companies obtain low-cost financing for clean energy development projects. Drawing in part upon funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the bonds function as "tax credit" bonds, which means that the bondholders receive a federal tax credit in lieu of a portion of the interest on the bond. That, in turn, keeps the interest payments low for the project owner. For this round of CREBs, the federal tax credits will cover 70% of the interest on the bonds. Because the Treasury Department has a limit on the tax credits it can provide to such CREBs, it must allocate the bonds in advance.

Although Montana was not a recipient of these funds, several other western states area. See the press release and full list of allocations.

Don't Miss the Upcoming Biodiesel Production Webinar!

If you want to make your agriculture operation more sustainable, you probably know that biodiesel is a great alternative fuel that is safe, inexpensive and can be produced right on the farm. But starting biodiesel production can be intimidating. To get FREE, expert information about the basic of biodiesel production and learn about how to incorporate the fuel on your farm or ranch, register for Getting Started in Farm-Scale Biodiesel Production, a 60-minute webinar from ATTRA/ National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. This FREE webinar on Nov. 5 at 11 a.m. MST will highlight the basics of biodiesel production and show home brewers what precautions they can take to avoid potential problems associated with poor-quality fuel. When properly made and stored, biodiesel can be substituted for petroleum-based diesel in virtually any standard, unmodified engine. It is a clean-burning, renewable and environmentally friendly fuel that emits fewer pollutants than traditional petrodiesel and is biodegradable and extends engine life. Please register in advance at www.attra.ncat.org/webinars2009/biodiesel1.

NorthWestern Energy Offers Energy Fairs in Southwest Montana

NorthWestern Energy invites all of its customers in the Helena area to attend its Home Energy Makeover Expo this Saturday, October 31, at the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds, 98 West Custer Avenue from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
The Expo, which will be held in conjunction with another round of weatherization kit giveaways, will include activities such as pictures with Louie and Sniffy, balloons and giveaways for the kids, free refreshments, safety education and E+ how-to demonstrations. This year, the company also will distribute free carbon monoxide detectors to residential gas customers (limit one per household and while supplies last) and we’ve invited a variety of vendors to provide information, displays and demonstrations to compliment NorthWestern’s E+ rebate programs. The National Weather Service is hosting a booth this year and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will provide information on state and federal tax incentives for implementing energy efficiency measures. In addition, NorthWestern Energy customers can register to win an extreme home energy makeover by registering for the Home Energy Makeover contest at the Saturday event.

“Many of our customers are interested in learning how to be smart energy consumers, so we’ve expanded our events this year to include presentations on everything from our rebate and incentive programs to small scale renewable energy applications,” said Bobbi Schroeppel, Vice President – Customer Care and Communications.  “Customers that are interested in finding ways to save energy will be able to speak one-on-one with energy experts.”
 
Residential electric customers who have not received free Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs from NorthWestern at any other event this year are eligible to receive free CFL bulbs at the expos or weekday kit giveaway events.  NorthWestern Energy natural gas home space or water heating customers who have not received a starter weatherization kit at any prior event or through a home energy audit may be eligible to receive a free weatherization kit at the expo or events.  Further qualifications may apply. 
 
The Helena Home Energy Makeover Expo is one of more than 40 local events scheduled in Montana this fall. Please visit www.northwesternenergy.com or call (800) 823-5995 for the complete Montana schedule, further details on starter weatherization kits, and information about NorthWestern Energy’s E+ rebate programs.

Hall Businesses Look to Biomass for Energy Needs

Two Hall businesses—Eagle Stud Mill and Big Sky Shavings—are pursuing projects that could turn their waste wood into a power supply, according to a report in the Missoulian. Eagle Stud is one of eight Montana mills currently working with NorthWestern Energy to determine the feasibility of wood-fired electricity as a renewable energy source, says the article. The mill currently has an electricity generator on the property, which it once used to supply as much as 75 percent of its power demand. The second business, Big Sky Shavings, recently received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Program to help buy a biomass-fueled boiler. "It would save us $6,000 a month - maybe more," said business co-owner Ed James. "That's our propane bill now. When the weather gets colder, it goes up to $7,000 or $8,000." Read the full article.

Vice President Biden Unveils Home Retrofit Plan for Energy Efficiency

Vice President Biden released on October 19 the Recovery Through Retrofit report, which lays out a plan to help U.S. residents upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes. The scheme aims to increase green jobs and save energy through residential retrofits. At the same time, DOE issued a solicitation that offers $454 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds—including $390 million for a "Retrofit Ramp-Up" program—to support energy efficiency efforts throughout the country.

At a Middle Class Task Force meeting earlier this year, the vice president asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to develop a proposal for federal action to lay the groundwork for a self-sustaining industry for home energy efficiency retrofits. Their response comes in the October 19 report and includes these federal recommendations: provide U.S. homeowners with home energy retrofit information, including an energy performance label for existing homes; get past cost barriers by making financing more accessible, including long-term municipal loans repaid through the owners' property tax bills, a concept known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE); and establish national workforce certifications and training standards, creating a uniform set of national standards to qualify workers for energy efficiency retrofits. See the Recovery Through Retrofit report.

Solar Becoming Power Source of Choice in Colorado

According to a new report on Yahoo! News, solar power is outpacing natural gas in Colorado. As many counties in the state are trying to shift to greener sources of energy, solar has seemingly taken the lead. Solar installations have been fueled, in part, by tax credits and rebates, a growing concern about greenhouse gases and climate change, not to mention the sunshine that abounds there.

The natural gas industry, which produces more gas here than nearly every other county in Colorado , has been relegated to the shadows. In addition, more stringent environmental regulations coupled with lower natural gas prices have slowed many new drilling permits. As a result, production — and the jobs that come with it — have leveled off. Read the full story.

Montana’s Renewable Energy Growth Lags Behind Other States

Despite state and federal laws that require utilities such as NorthWestern Energy to purchase power from qualifying, independent, small renewable energy projects, only a handful of Montana projects have been able to successfully secure contracts with local utilities over the past five years. In comparison, nearly 30 projects in neighboring Idaho have secured such contracts. According to a recent report in The Montana Standard, the state Public Service Commission is charged with enforcing those laws and establishing prices the utilities pay for the power. Developers, though, say that process isn’t consistent.

"It all comes down to what the rates are set at, by the PSC ," says Ted Sorenson, who has developed small hydroelectric projects in Idaho and Montana . "It's price-driven. The rates have been too low in Montana to have any significant development." Waiting months or even years for the PSC to resolve price issues is a source of frustration for potential developers, says the article, and those developers often look for opportunities in other states as a result. Read the full story.

Reports Find Hige Potential to Cut U.S. Energy Use

The United States could reduce non-transportation energy consumption by 23% by 2020 by adopting energy-efficiency technologies, according to a recent research report from McKinsey & Company. The report notes that an estimated $520 billion up-front investment (not including program costs) would eliminate more than $1.2 trillion in wasteful energy use, while also providing a large-scale abatement of greenhouse gas emissions. The report also notes the significant barriers to energy efficiency gains, including the need for significant up-front spending in exchange for long-term benefits; the fragmented nature of such efforts that keep it from being a priority, because there are more than 100 million locations and billions of devices in residential, commercial, and industrial settings; and the difficulty in tracking and verifying energy that is not consumed.

To overcome those barriers, the McKinsey report calls for an overarching national strategy that will recognize energy efficiency as "an important energy resource"; launch a wide array of both proven and emerging approaches to efficiency; identify methods of providing significant up-front funding for investments in energy efficiency; forge stronger bonds among utilities, regulators, government agencies, industries, and energy users; and foster innovation in the next wave of energy efficiency technologies. The potential energy savings could avoid 1.1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report. See the summary of the McKinsey report, which links to the executive summary and the full report.

NorthWestern Energy to Increase Its Renewables Portfolio

NorthWestern Energy already has one of the highest percentages of total renewable energy supply of any utility in the Northwest and it is now looking to add even more to its electric generation portfolio.  

The company has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to owners or developers of potential projects that meet state standards for renewable energy and/or projects that meet the requirements for Community Renewable Energy Projects (CREP).  The company is seeking to add 25-75 megawatts of renewable electric generation to its portfolio.  Responses are due by the end of September.  

“We’re looking for innovative, cost-effective renewable projects that we can add to our growing portfolio of rate-based electricity resources,” said Dave Gates, Vice President – Wholesale Operations.  “In addition to further diversifying our portfolio, the addition of renewable resources favorably positions the utility given pending climate change legislation.” Read the full news release.  

Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions Projected to Drop 5% in 2009

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are projected to decrease by 5% in 2009, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). EIA's "Short-Term Energy Outlook," released Augsust 11, projects annual energy-related carbon dioxide emissions for the first time. Economic downturns are generally bad news, but they're great for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, because businesses and industries use less energy, and people generally drive less. In 2008, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 3.2% in the United States, and that trend is expected to deepen this year. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are the dominant greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, so the overall greenhouse gas emissions generally follow the same trend as the energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Breaking it down by fossil fuel, the EIA expects carbon dioxide emissions from petroleum to decline by 4% in 2009, primarily due to the decreased consumption of jet fuel and fuel oil, with motor fuel consumption holding steady. Emissions from burning natural gas should drop by 2.3%, due to a lower production of electricity, while emissions from burning coal are expected to drop by 7.9%, due to declining industrial use and the switch of electric utilities to fuels other than coal. Looking ahead to 2010, the EIA sees a 0.7% increase in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions as the economy improves. Increased coal and natural gas consumption will push coal emissions up by 1.1% and natural gas emissions up by 0.5%. And even though transportation fuel consumption is expected to increase by 1.5% in 2010, the growth in biofuels is expected to hold the growth in carbon dioxide emissions to only 0.6%. See EIA's " Short-Term Energy Outlook."

Northwestern Transmission Line to Carry 575 Megawatts of Wind Power

DOE recently announced that construction is underway for the McNary-John Day transmission project in Oregon and Washington, funded by $343 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project, part of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) transmission system, is expected to deliver more than 575 megawatts (MW) of wind-generated power across the West by early 2012. The 79-mile McNary-John Day line will run from the McNary Substation in Oregon, across the Columbia River into Washington, and back into Oregon, where it will end at the John Day Substation. It is one of four proposed transmission lines that together would add 225 miles of high-voltage power transmission to the Pacific Northwest, delivering about 2,800 MW of renewable energy to the region. See the DOE press release and the BPA fact sheet on the proposed projects.

DOE Offers $30 Billion in Loan Guarantees for Renewable Energy Projects

DOE is offering an estimated $30 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. The actual value of the loan guarantees depends upon the specific applications and the market conditions, both of which determine how much funding is needed to subsidize the loan. DOE's lending authority includes up to $8.5 billion in loan guarantees supported by 2009 annual appropriations, as well as $2 billion in loan subsidies from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which can support billions in loans for renewable energy and electric power transmission projects. The Recovery Act also provides up to $500 million in loan subsidies to support loans for cutting-edge biofuel projects. See the DOE press release and the website for the DOE Loan Guarantee Program. As of Tuesday, the loan guarantee solicitations were not yet posted on the website.

United States Signs Agreement with China on Building Energy Efficiency

DOE and the Chinese Ministry of Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) signed a joint agreement on July 15 to foster collaboration in the development of more efficient building designs. Under the agreement, the United States and China will exchange experts who will share their understanding of efficient building technologies, including high-performance heating and cooling, insulation, lighting, cold storage, geothermal heat pumps, building-integrated solar power, and solar thermal systems. The two nations will also explore the feasibility of developing a shared project in China to demonstrate green buildings, building energy savings, and renewable energy technologies. With this announcement, the United States and China recognize that improving energy efficiency in buildings will benefit both nations, and that by working in tandem, they can accelerate the adoption of new clean energy technologies.

An additional focus of the pact is the development of sustainable communities that rely heavily on the use of renewable energy. Together, the United States and China will conduct analyses of the lessons learned from their combined experience with energy-efficient buildings and communities, examining options for policy incentives or regulatory reform to encourage energy-efficient development in China. The United States will provide support for MOHURD's "eco-cities" initiative, which aims to build integrated green cities that are sustainably designed, use renewable power, and have efficient transportation systems. The partners will also collaborate on developing standards and guidelines for such sustainable cities. See the DOE press release.

U.S. Joins International Renewable Energy Agency

The United States officially joined the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) on June 29, increasing the number of countries participating in the organization to 136. IRENA was initially founded on January 26 with 75 member nations, and its membership now includes most of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, as well as Australia, Greenland, India, Japan, and parts of South America. The new agency will engage governments around the world in promoting a rapid transition toward the widespread and sustainable use of renewable energy on a global scale. The U.S. participation is an important element of the Obama Administration's effort to support clean energy technologies and the development of the low-carbon economies needed to address climate change. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the United States will work closely with other signatories, IRENA's leadership, and members of Congress to ensure that the new agency's work augments and complements other renewable energy efforts. U.S. Ambassador Reno Harnish signed the IRENA statute at the second session of the IRENA Preparatory Commission in Egypt. Read the full news release.

Town Pump Undertakes Statewide Energy Conservation Effort

All of Town Pump Inc.’s facilities, including convenience stores, motels, and car washes, will soon be more energy-efficient as a result of a statewide energy efficiency effort being undertaken by the company. "Town Pump is actively looking for ways to conserve energy use to ease our burden on the earth's resources," said spokeswoman Maureen Kenneally. "District managers are currently performing energy conservation inspections at all locations."

Energy improvements being installed include energy-efficient lighting and controls, energy management systems, controls for motel room heating and cooling systems, upgrades to fans and motors in coolers and freezers, water conservation measures at car washes. In addition, the company is recycling cardboard and monitoring gas tanks at all convenience stores for leaks or malfunctions. Read the full story.

New Report Identifies Promising Areas for Large-scale Renewable Development

The Western Governors’ Association and the U.S. Department of Energy have released a joint report that takes the first steps toward identifying those areas in the Western Interconnection that have both the potential for large scale development of renewable resources and low environmental impacts.

“We set and achieved an aggressive goal of bringing together in less than one year a large number of stakeholders to identify areas that have the most promising renewable energy resources,” said Gov. Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., WGA Chairman. “Their efforts are an important first step in developing cost-attractive renewable energy resources across the West and the high voltage transmission that will ensure this electricity can be delivered to demand centers.”

The results of this work and a map that shows the most promising areas are summarized in the report, Western Renewable Energy Zones – Phase 1 Report released today at the WGA’s Annual Meeting. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu joined the governors today to discuss the report’s findings and future work.

“To harness the incredible renewable energy potential of the West, we need to know where that energy can be generated and how to move it to where people live,” Secretary Chu said. “The Department of Energy was proud to partner with the Western Governors’ Association on this study, which is a necessary step for creating a clean energy economy." Read the full press release.

DOE's Solar Decathlon to Highlight Innovation, Future Green Jobs

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced this year’s participants and dates for DOE’s 2009 Solar Decathlon, a competition that challenges students to design and develop houses that can provide their own energy from the sunlight – a clean, renewable source of energy.   The twenty collegiate teams from the United States, Canada, Spain and Germany will each build a completely self-sufficient solar powered house, showcasing energy-efficient amenities and smart home systems that provide reduced carbon emissions without sacrificing the comfort of modern conveniences.

 “The Solar Decathlon highlights President Obama’s goal of improving our national security and transforming the economy by using off-the-shelf, clean energy technologies to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil, reduce our carbon emissions, and protect the environment,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  “As part of the building competition, the next generation of green engineers, architects, designers, and professionals gain valuable experience that will help them to lead America toward a clean energy future.”

DOE’s Solar Decathlon, which takes place October 9-18 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., consists of 10 individual contests that evaluate the teams’ skills in architecture, home design, and communications. The homes constructed by the teams must produce enough electricity and hot water from solar panels to perform all the normal functions of a home — from powering the lights; to cooking, washing clothes and dishes; to powering home electronics; and maintaining a comfortable temperature.  This year, a new net-metering contest will evaluate each home’s ability to produce its own power.  The competition focuses on cutting edge energy efficient and renewable energy innovation while providing a unique green jobs training opportunity for each of the students. Read the full press release.

$467 Million in Recovery Act Funding Available for Geothermal and Solar Energy Projects

President Obama has announced over $467 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to expand and accelerate the development, deployment, and use of geothermal and solar energy throughout the United States. The funding announced today represents a substantial down payment that will help the solar and geothermal industries overcome technical barriers, demonstrate new technologies, and provide support for clean energy jobs for years to come. Today's announcement supports the Obama Administration's strategy to increase American economic competiveness, while supporting jobs and moving toward a clean energy economy.

"We have a choice. We can remain the world's leading importer of oil, or we can become the world's leading exporter of clean energy," said President Obama. "We can hand over the jobs of the future to our competitors, or we can confront what they have already recognized as the great opportunity of our time: the nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. That's the nation I want America to be." Read the full story.

Obama Administration Announces Comprehensive Fuel Economy Policy

President Barack Obama announced a new national policy on May 19 that will increase the fuel economy and reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of all new cars and trucks sold in the United States . The policy includes proposed new fuel economy standards will cover model years 2012-2016, achieving an average fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for model year 2016. That exceeds the requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which required an average fuel economy of 35 mpg by model year 2020. The standards will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new vehicles by 30% by 2016. Over the lifetime of these new vehicles, they will save an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil and will avoid the emission of 900 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Cars and light trucks cause 17% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. See the White House press release.

U.S. Wind Power Industry Marks Strong First-Quarter Growth

The U.S. wind power industry installed more than 2,800 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in the first quarter of 2009, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The growth rate is strong compared to the overall growth of 8,358 MW in 2008, which averages out to roughly 2,100 MW per quarter, but the growth is relatively weak compared to the fourth quarter of 2008, when the industry installed a record 4,112 MW of wind capacity. New wind power projects were completed in 15 states, including the 400.3-MW first phase of the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in Indiana, a project that earned Indiana the distinction as the state with the fastest growth in wind power capacity: a 75% increase in just one quarter. But looking ahead presents a less favorable view for the nation, as projects now under construction will only add another 3,400 MW of wind power capacity. Even if all those projects are completed this year, which is unlikely, the total installed capacity for 2009 would only reach 6,200 MW, a 26% drop from the record pace achieved in 2008. See the AWEA press release.

NorthWestern Energy Develops Qualification Requirements for USB Contractors

NorthWestern Energy has established qualification requirements for contractors interested in receiving Universal Systems Benefit (USB) renewable energy (RE) funds for RE projects within NorthWestern Energy’s electric service territory.  Click here to see the qualification requirements and a form for submitting an application. 

DOE to Invest $777 million in 46 New Energy Frontier Research Centers

The White House announced on April 27 that the DOE Office of Science will invest $777 million over the next five years in 46 new Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs). The EFRCs will be established at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms across the nation, drawing in part on funds provided by the Recovery Act, while also depending on future Congressional appropriations. Twenty EFRCs will focus on renewable and carbon-neutral energy sources, including solar energy, biofuels, advanced nuclear energy, and geological sequestration of carbon dioxide. Six EFRCs will pursue energy efficiency technologies, including solid-state lighting, superconductivity, and clean and efficient combustion, while another half-dozen EFRCs will focus on energy storage, including electrical energy storage and hydrogen storage. Last but not least, 14 EFRCs will be dedicated to cross-cutting science, including catalysis and materials that perform in extreme environments. The EFRCs will be located in 36 states, plus the District of Columbia. See the White House fact sheet and the award announcement on the DOE Office of Science website.

Gardiner Students Learning with Solar

Students at Gardiner School celebrated Earth Day with a hands-on demonstration showing how solar energy works. The demonstration concluded with the installation of 12 solar panels on the school, which will generate electricity for the school using a free resource—the sun. In addition to reducing the school’s energy costs and helping to protect the environment, the system will benefit the school’s 300 students by serving as a valuable learning tool. The system includes a monitoring system that allows students to track the power of the sun, the temperature and the wind speed at any given time, as well as how much electricity the system is producing.

The school received a $23,000 grant from NorthWestern Energy to help pay for the system. In addition, Bear Creek Council, a local environmental group, contributed $2,000 to buy additional teaching materials focused on renewable energy. Read More »

Obama Visits Wind Energy Plant on Earth Day

President Obama spent part of Earth Day touring a wind turbine plant in Newton, Iowa. According to this report from Yahoo!News, Obama took the opportunity to promote his climate and energy agenda.

“The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy—it’s a choice between prosperity and decline,” said Obama. “The nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.”

Obama said that while the United States needs more domestic production of oil and natural gas in the short term, "the bulk of our efforts" must be placed on shifting to increased use of renewable energy. Wind energy could generate as much as 20 percent of the U.S. electricity demand by 2030, according to Obama, and could create up to 250,000 jobs.

The wind turbine plant, Trinity Structural Towers, is located in a former Maytag appliance plant that once employed some 4,000 people—one-fourth of the town’s population. The turbine plant employs about 90. Read More »

House Bill 343 Signed Into Law

Governor Schweitzer has signed into law House Bill 343, which essentially allows public utilities such as NorthWestern Energy to own a community renewable energy project. The law requires NorthWestern Energy to purchase a minimum amount of green power generated from community renewable energy projects by 2012. House Bill 343 will allow the utility to meet those requirements with its own community renewable energy project, which can then be counted toward requirements in the Renewable Resource Standard. HB343 was sponsored by Art Noonan, D-Butte.

NorthWestern Energy Reminds Customers About Rebates

In honor of Earth Day, NorthWestern Energy is reminding its Montana customers of the variety of programs and services that encourage Earth-friendly energy practices including a new special offer for residential electric customers, the Earth Day Lighting Coupon.

“In less than a minute, people can change out a high use incandescent bulb to a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) and save energy this Earth Day,” said Bill Thomas, Manager of Regulatory Support Services.  

“The coupon has been mailed to all residential electric customers and is now showing up in mail boxes around Montana. The coupon enables customers to save $2 off the price of each CFL purchased at participating retailers.”  The coupon is valid from April 22 through June 14, 2009. 

CFLs use one-quarter of the electricity of a traditional bulb and last up to ten times longer.  By shopping for CFLs with the 4L’s – Label, Light, Location, and Less Energy, customers can choose the right CFL for the right location and immediately start saving energy. Read the full press release.

U.S. Government Accelerates its Purchase of Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

President Barack Obama announced on April 9 that the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) will buy about 17,600 new, fuel-efficient vehicles from U.S. auto companies by June 1. The purchase will draw on funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will be on an accelerated schedule to help support U.S. automakers. The GSA will spend $285 million to purchase the vehicles from General Motors Corporation, Chrysler LLC, and Ford Motor Company. The purchase will include 2,500 hybrid sedans—the largest one-time purchase yet of hybrid vehicles for the federal government—and each new vehicle will yield at least a 10% fuel economy improvement over the vehicle it replaces. The GSA will also spend $15 million by the end of September to purchase a pilot fleet of advanced-technology vehicles, including all-electric vehicles, hybrid buses, and buses that run on compressed natural gas. See the White House press release.

Interior Dept.: U.S. Offshore Wind Resources Could Lead America’s Clean-Energy Revolution

U.S. offshore areas hold enormous potential for wind energy development near the nation’s highest areas of electricity demand – coastal metropolitan centers, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said recently. 

“More than three-fourths of the nation’s electricity demand comes from coastal states and
the wind potential off the coasts of the lower 48 states actually exceeds our entire U.S. electricity demand,” Salazar told a summit meeting of 25X’25 America’s Energy Future, a group working to lower America’s carbon emissions.

Citing major findings of a report he commissioned from Interior scientists, Salazar also said the Outer Continental Shelf energy resources report found huge information gaps about the location and extent of offshore oil and gas resources. 

“Along the Atlantic Coast, for example, the seismic data we have is twenty-five years old,” Salazar said. “How should we gather the information we currently lack about our offshore oil and gas resources?  How do we manage the costs of gathering seismic data?  Are there areas on the OCS that should be of priority for information collection?”

The Executive Summary is online at http://www.doi.gov/ocs . Read the full press release at www.doi.gov/news/09_News_Releases/040209.html.

DOE Launches the Commercial Real Estate Energy Alliance

DOE launched on April 9 the Commercial Real Estate Energy Alliance (CREEA), a partnership of commercial real estate owners and operators that have volunteered to work with DOE to drastically reduce the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of commercial buildings. Commercial buildings currently account for 18% of the nation's energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. CREEA will provide a link between commercial building owners and operators and DOE's research and technologies and will act as national forum to share best practices and practical experiences in energy efficiency. CREEA members include leading real estate and building engineering organizations; the U.S. General Services Administration, which manages federal buildings; U.S. and global leaders in real estate services, such as CB Richard Ellis, Cushman & Wakefield Inc., Grubb & Ellis Company, Jones Lang LaSalle, Transwestern, and USAA Real Estate Company; and top hotel, casino, and resort owners, such as Hilton Hotels Corporation, MGM Mirage, The Walt Disney Company, and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, LLC.

CREEA is the second energy alliance launched by DOE in the commercial buildings sector. The Retailer Energy Alliance, launched in 2008, provides similar resources and services for retail businesses, including Wal-Mart, Target, and Macy's. Both alliances are part of DOE's Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative, which aims to achieve market-ready, net-zero-energy commercial buildings by 2025. The initiative is supported by the National Laboratory Collaborative on Building Technologies, under which five of DOE's national laboratories have been working toward the net-zero energy goal, and the Commercial Building National Accounts, which includes DOE-selected companies and organizations that conduct cost-shared research, development, and deployment for new building technologies. See the DOE press release and the CREEA Web page on DOE's Building Technologies Program Web site.

Carbon Sequestration Bill Blocked by House

Democrats on the House Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committee have voted against Senate Bill 498, a bill that would regulate carbon sequestration from coal-fired plants, the largest emitters of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.

According to this report in the Great Falls Tribune, the deadlock came about after Republicans refused three key amendments. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Keith Bales, R-Otter.

Committee chairman Art Noonan, D-Butte, says Bales's bill favored the interests of the industry over the interests of the state. "To me, this represented the same thing as deregulation: The industry deciding that they wanted to get in front of national trend, decided to support legislation in which the authors of the bill drafted (it) exactly the way the industry wanted to see it," he said. "I'm in support of coal, but I am not in support of pushing through a piece of legislation hastily that will have huge consequences both for the state of Montana, for local citizens and for our economy.”

Obama Announces $3.2 Billion in Funding for Local Energy Efficiency Improvements

The Obama Administration has announced plans to invest $3.2 billion in energy efficiency and conservation projects in U.S. cities, counties, states, territories, and Native American tribes.  The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, funded by President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will provide formula grants for projects that reduce total energy use and fossil fuel emissions, and improve energy efficiency nationwide.

“These investments will save taxpayer dollars and create jobs in communities around the country,” said Vice President Biden.  “Local leaders will have the flexibility in how they put these resources to work – but we will hold them accountable for making the investments quickly and wisely to spur the local economy and cut energy use.”

The funding will support energy audits and energy efficiency retrofits in residential and commercial buildings, the development and implementation of advanced building codes and inspections, and the creation of financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements.  Other activities eligible for use of grant funds include transportation programs that conserve energy, projects to reduce and capture methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, renewable energy installations on government buildings, energy efficient traffic signals and street lights, deployment of Combined Heat and Power and district heating and cooling systems, and others. Read the full press release.

SEIA: U.S. Solar Market Hit Record Growth In 2008, Despite Economic Crisis

The Solar Energy Industries Association released its 2008 U.S. Solar Industry Year in Review, highlighting a third year of record growth. The report notes that 1,265 megawatts (MW) of solar power of all types were installed in 2008, bringing total U.S. solar power capacity up 17 percent to 8,775 MW. The 2008 figure included 342 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV), 139 MWTh (thermal equivalent) of solar water heating, 762 MWTh of pool heating and an estimated 21 MW of solar space heating and cooling.
 
Rates of growth beat last year’s as well, with the grid-tied PV segment leading with a growth rate of 81 percent for the amount of installed power in 2008 (292 MW) over the amount installed in 2007 (161 MW). Solar water heating installation grew at a 50 percent rate in 2008 (139 MWTh) over 2007 (93 MWTh) and pool heating growth slowed by 3 percent in 2008 (762 MWTh) from 2007 (785 MWTh). Read the full press release.

DOE Offers $2.4 Billion to Support Next-Generation Electric Vehicles

DOE is offering up to $2.4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to support next-generation plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and their advanced battery components. Of the $2.4 billion, $1.5 billion in grants will go to U.S. manufacturers to produce high-efficiency batteries and their components; $500 million in grants will go to U.S. manufacturers to produce other components needed for electric vehicles, such as electric motors; and $400 million will go towards projects that demonstrate and evaluate plug-in hybrids and other electric infrastructure concepts. When these plug-in hybrid vehicles are offered for sale, U.S. residents who purchase them will be able to claim a tax credit of up to $7,500. Building a plug-in hybrid vehicle industry in the United States will create tens of thousands of jobs and will reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil.

DOE will provide assistance to construct or upgrade battery manufacturing, component, and recycling plants for lithium-ion and other advanced batteries, as well as for factories producing the power electronics for electric drive vehicles. These agreements will help lower the cost of battery packs, batteries, and electric propulsion systems. DOE will also support demonstration, evaluation, and education projects to help develop the market for advanced electric drive vehicles. The $2.4 billion in funding is divided between two Funding Opportunity Announcements. Applications for Transportation Electrification are due by May 13, and applications for the Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative are due by May 19.

Deer Lodge School Heating with Biomass

The Deer Lodge School District is home to a new wood biomass heating system. The system was made possible through a $175,000 grant from the Montana Fuels for Schools and Beyond Program to assist with the costs of purchasing and installing the system. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, USDA Forest Service, and Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. worked cooperatively to assist in the development of this project as part of a program partnership aimed at promoting utilization of forest residues for energy in the area. The project received additional financial support from a private donation from Rock Creek Cattle Company, the sale of carbon offsets, a loan from People’s Bank of Deer Lodge, and a loan from the state Board of Investments. Deer Lodge School ’s system is the tenth wood biomass boiler system to be installed in the state. It is expected to save the district about $45,000 in energy costs each year. Read the full press release.

Wind Energy Conference Set for April 9

"Making Wind Energy Work for You" is the focus of a free April 9 conference at Fort Peck Community College in Poplar. The event is co-sponsored by Fort Peck Community College, Montana State University Extension and Montana's Agro Energy Plan. It is designed to provide agricultural producers, tribal and community leaders and others with unbiased information about wind development in Montana.

The American Wind Energy Association ranks Montana's wind resource as the fifth best in the nation, said Joel Schumacher, MSU economist and one of the program's organizers. Despite the quality of Montana's wind resource, the state has only 271 megawatts of capacity compared to a national capacity of over 26,000 megawatts. Speakers at the conference will discuss opportunities, models and challenges involved with developing viable wind projects in Montana.

Those speakers will include Roger Taylor of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Chantel McCormick and Lesa Evers of the Montana Department of Commerce, Jessica Raker of the Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development, Bob Gough of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, Gary Weins of the Montana Association of Electric
Cooperatives, Walter Tail Feather of the Fort Peck Energy Department, Stoney Anketell of the Fort Peck Tribal Council and Dave Ryan of the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Those attending the conference will have the opportunity to tour a small scale wind turbine located in Poplar.

The conference will be held at the Greet the Dawn Auditorium of Fort Peck Community College. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. The conference starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. It is free of charge but pre-registration is requested. For more information or to pre-register, contact the FPCC staff at (406) 768-3025.

Feds Announce $52 Million in Weatherization Funding and Energy Efficiency Grants for Montana

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Chu recently announced that Montana will receive $52,398,777 in weatherization and energy efficiency funding – including $26,543,777 for the Weatherization Assistance Program and $25,855,000 for the State Energy Program.  This is part of a nationwide investment announced today of nearly $8 billion under the President's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – an investment that will put approximately 87,000 Americans to work.

“This energy efficiency funding for states is an important investment in making America more energy independent, creating a cleaner economy and creating more jobs for the 21st century that can't be outsourced,” said Vice President Biden.

The funding will support weatherization of homes, including adding more insulation, sealing leaks and modernizing heating and air conditioning equipment, which will pay for itself many times over. Read the full press release.

REAP Program Accepting Applications to Conduct Rural Energy Audits

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has announced that it is accepting funding applications from eligible entities for grants to conduct energy audits under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

"For the first time ever, USDA will make grant funding available this year through the Rural Energy for America Program to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses obtain audits to identify ways to improve energy efficiency," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "The assistance provided by this program is in keeping with President Obama's energy conservation goals for our nation." The program is authorized in Section 9007 of the 2008 Farm Bill.

The audits are intended to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers determine where to make changes in their operations to enable them to reduce energy consumption. Audits are required for energy efficiency projects funded through REAP that exceed $50,000. States, tribal and local governments, land grant colleges or universities, other institutions of higher learning, and electric cooperatives and public power entities are eligible to receive funds to conduct the audits. Parties seeking audits from the grantees must pay 25 percent of audit costs.

Applications for grants must be completed and submitted on paper or electronically no later than June 9. Read More »

Winners of the First Annual Montana BetterBricks Awards Announced

At the first annual Montana BetterBricks Awards, three outstanding leaders in the green building industry were honored for their efforts by BetterBricks, the commercial initiative of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, along with NorthWestern Energy and the Montana Electric Cooperative Association (MECA). The winners were announced at the Montana Ambassadors Annual Conference, which was held in February at the Great Northern Hotel in Helena. The winners are:

  • Owner/Decision Maker: Gary Griffith, Facilities Director (retired) Bozeman School District. Gary focused on energy conservation for the District, and through a combination of retrofits, repairs and operational practices, he dramatically decreased the District's natural gas consumption by 50 percent. Two of the District's elementary schools are believed to be the only ENERGY STAR ® certified schools in Montana, achieved under his direction.
  • Architecture: Randy Hafer, President and co-owner of High Plains Architects in Billings. Randy led his team to reinvent a professional office building called, “Home on the Range.” This project received LEED® Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, currently Montana’s only Platinum project.
  • Engineering: Mark Hines, Mechanical Engineer, Montana state Architecture and Engineering Division, Dept. of Administration. The State Buildings Energy Conservation Program relies on Mark's expertise to design the state’s energy efficiency projects. The program regularly saves 15-30 percent of a building’s energy costs and is reporting over one million dollars in savings a year.

Read the full press release.

UM-Western Cafeteria Loses Trays to Save Energy

The University of Montana-Western in Dillon is using less energy these days, since its cafeteria went tray-less. In addition to saving money by not having to buy new trays, the cafeteria also reduces energy use and costs by not having to wash the trays. And, as an added benefit, this scenario means less food waste, since students are more likely to eat the food on a plate, but not perhaps an entire tray. According to this report from The Montana Standard, the school saved about $2,600 last semester. Read the full story.

Butte Civic Center Sees the Light

The Butte Civic Center recently completed work on a new lighting system that is both improving lighting quality in the building and saving money. The upgrade is expected to save some $111,000 in energy costs each year. NorthWestern Energy's Commercial Lighting Rebate Program provided $15,000 in incentives to the project. Read More »

CEO Says NorthWestern Energy Supports Renewable Energy Development

According to Bob Rowe, President and CEO of NorthWestern Energy, the utility strongly supports the development of renewable energy in Montana. And, he says, the company backs up that commitment with actions and results.

Says Rowe: "Over 8 percent of the electricity we deliver to our Montana customers comes from wind and other renewables.  This is higher than any other regulated utility in the Pacific Northwest and we are on target to achieve at least 15% by 2015. We're also committing human resources to understanding how best to integrate wind (a highly variable resource) into our system, and to working with wind developers on cost-effective projects.

Recently, there has been some discussion in the media about NorthWestern Energy's view of small-scale renewable energy development, particularly in relation to HB 491, the 'QF bill.'

Our role concerning wind is twofold: We're a transmission provider that serves as the pathway between Montana generators and customers both in and out-of-state. We've recently added to the services we provide these “wind shippers” and we have enabled a number of them to interconnect to our transmission system. We're also the local utility providing energy to our customers at rates approved by the Public Service Commission.

It's the latter role that is now the main focus when discussing small-scale renewable energy production. However, there is confusion between the large amount of electricity generated in Montana on a peak hour basis (over 3,000 megawatts), the smaller amount consumed in Montana on that same peak hour of about 1800 MW, and the still-smaller amount provided by NorthWestern Energy to its mainly small- and medium-sized customers retail customers of about 1200 MW." Read the full news release.

NorthWestern Energy Offers Free Course on Lighting and Controls

NorthWestern Energy has announced that it will offer a series of free courses around the state, developed for electricians, distributors, manufacturers, commercial lighting reps, and business customers. The Northwest is gearing up for a significant increase in the volume of energ-efficiency activities over the next few years. Utilities, energy-efficiency organizations and industry contractors and distributors are working together to dramatically increase the number of completed energy efficient lighting projects and save more energy. In this workshop, you'll learn about: light sources, color rendition, design of energy-efficient applications; tips to conduct commercial lighting audits quickly and accurately; new and emerging commercial lighting technologies; incorporating efficiency training to real life applications; and techniques to market and sell commercial lighting projects. Montana Electrical License Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits are available. The normal $79 tuition cost for this course is being waived as part of NorthWestern Energy's E+ Commercial Lighting Rebate Program. For more information, email gwen.lusk@verizon.net or call 888-205-5756. Read More »

Butte School District Saving Money Through Lighting Upgrade

The Butte Public School District is saving some 15 percent in electric costs these days, the result of a lighting upgrade in buildings throughout the district. According to J.R. Richardson, district business manager, the project is expected to save about $103,000 each year, freeing up funds for other purposes. The project included installing new high-efficiency lights in classrooms, gyms and other rooms, along with occupancy sensors to turn lights off in areas that aren't being used.

NorthWestern Energy's Commercial Lighting Rebate Program provided rebates of more than $180,000 to help pay for the project, bringing the payback period to less than four years. Read the full story in The Montana Standard.

Montana Ambassadors Honor Champions of High Performance Buildings

The state of Montana has embraced the green building movement and next week will honor champions who are leading the way by hosting the first ever Montana BetterBricks Awards. In a joint venture with NorthWestern Energy and the Montana Electric Cooperative Association (MECA), the event is taking place on Thursday, February 26, 2009, at the Great Northern Hotel in Helena, Mont., in conjunction with the MontanaAmbassadors Annual Conference.

The BetterBricks Awards salute individuals pioneering high performance commercial buildings with an emphasis on energy efficiency in the Northwest. The first annual MontanaBetterBricks Awards celebrate the people behind the best commercial projects in the state, such as architects, engineers, building owners and developers and other building professionals. The result: a greater number of buildings that offer improved energy efficiency, bottom line benefits and a reduced carbon footprint. Read the full press release.

NorthWestern Energy to Help Track Renewable Energy Generation in Montana

NorthWestern Energy is providing a new service to help eligible small renewable energy producers in Montanatrack renewable energy certificates as a Qualified Reporting Entity (QRE) with the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System (WREGIS).

WREGIS is a voluntary, independent regional system that tracks renewable generation production to help ensure the credibility of the "green" value of renewable electricity. Using independent, verifiable, and reliable data, the QRE process will make it easier to implement renewable policies and achieve renewable energy goals. Data in WREGIS includes megawatt-hours produced, fuel source, facility location, and all state, provincial and voluntary renewable energy program qualifications. Each WREGIS certificate, bearing a unique serial number to prevent duplication, is issued for every megawatt-hour of renewable energy produced and deposited on the grid. Read the full press release.

 

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