We interviewed Montana's Governor Brian Schweitzer for our next newsletter coming out soon. Here's a preview as he talks about what Montana is doing to pursue energy efficiency.
Q. The Council’s regional power plan identifies improved energy efficiency as the highest priority because of its low cost, low environmental impact, and high job creation potential. What is Montana doing to make sure that the energy efficiency identified in the plan is being acquired by government, utilities, and consumers?
A. Energy efficiency provides the best homegrown defense against high-energy prices and it produces the quickest results. Energy-efficient houses keep us warmer while saving money, especially for those who are forced to choose between food and medicine or heat. Energy-efficient cars make citizens less subject to the supply disruptions associated with hurricanes and international politics, and an energy-efficient state provides good paying, clean-energy jobs. Shortly after taking office in 2005, we announced the Warm Homes Warm Hearts program, which used Youth Conservation Corps workers to weatherize thousands of low-income and senior houses across the state.
State government will continue to focus resources on energy efficiency through both direct assistance to Montana’s lower income families and support of industries, businesses, and practices that promote energy efficiency. We already have a good start with our state facilities. Montana was one of the first states to adopt a renewable energy portfolio (15 percent by 2015), having done so in 2005. It was also one of the first states to adopt the new energy-efficiency building codes.
We also launched the 20 x 10 initiative in 2008 with a goal of reducing natural gas and electricity use in state government facilities by 20 percent by the end of 2010. The reduction will come from a combination of investments in building renovations, changes in building operations, and improvements that individual employees make in their daily work. In addition to the energy savings from state facilities, state government agencies have been charged with applying a Montana CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standard moving the state vehicle fleets to achieve an average of 30 miles per gallon or better, with the exception of industrial vehicles and pickups needed for state work. To date, our overall CAFE achievements are 31mpg, and when we exclude industrial and pickup mileage, our current CAFE is 33 mpg. Many agency and motor pool vehicles are being replaced as they wear out with hybrid vehicles or other high-efficiency cars. Schools, universities, businesses, and communities have been encouraged to join in the effort. Montana is leading by example, and Montana is making a difference.
There are opportunities to increase energy efficiency and create good jobs along the way. Consumers are benefitting from state tax credits for home energy improvements and rebates on appliances. About 9,000 rebates are expected to be provided to consumers that replace old refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and clothes washers in the next few months. Local governments are also benefitting with 56 grants to be awarded this spring. The grants are primarily for upgrading lighting, replacing heating systems, and other building retrofits. Recycling grants were made available to 15 local government or private recycling companies to reduce the energy to manufacture new products. Individual consumers and small businesses are benefitting from an additional $1.2 million available for small, renewable-energy system loans, and a few businesses will get grants to adopt renewable energy technologies that are not in general use in the state of Montana. The state has also recently upgraded a portion of its school bus fleet to new, energy-efficient, low-emission buses.