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Governor, Utility CEO Headline Clean Energy Conference

The Northwest Energy Conference kicks off today in Missoula. (Alternative Energy Resources Organization)
The Northwest Energy Conference kicks off today in Missoula. (Alternative Energy Resources Organization)
May 19, 2016

MISSOULA, Mont. – More than a hundred conservation advocates are converging on Missoula today to map out Montana's transition to a clean energy economy.

They're gathering for the annual Northwest Energy Coalition conference.

This year, Gov. Steve Bullock is expected to lay out his plan to make Montana a leader in clean energy.

Ben Brouwer, policy director for the Montana Renewable Energy Association, says the conference comes at a critical moment for this state.

"Montana's energy economy is on the brink of crisis,” Brouwer says. “More than half of the electricity generated in the state is exported to utilities in Oregon, Washington and California.

“That market is drying up. West Coast buyers don't want Montana's coal-powered electricity."

Bob Rowe, CEO of NorthWestern Energy, the state's largest utility, is also appearing at the conference, taking questions from the audience on topics such as the company's programs for rooftop solar, commercial solar and hydropower.

Jennifer Hill-Hart, executive director of the Alternative Energy Resources Organization, says Montana can't afford to sit on the sidelines while other states actively promote clean energy.

"The clean energy market has potential to not only create a cleaner, healthier energy alternative, but those jobs will be more long-term and sustainable and more likely to be jobs that are given to people right here at home," she points out.

The conference will also look at ways to help rural co-ops and public utility districts offer the same type of energy efficiency incentive programs that are common in metropolitan areas.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MT