Launching energy efficiency programming to Montana’s rural electric cooperatives
A Rhodes Scholar and seventh-generation descendant of Montana homesteaders, Carrie La Seur is an energy and environmental lawyer determined to help communities in the Northern Plains make the transition to a new energy future. The program she founded to achieve that goal, Clean Energy Ambassadors, has in just its first few years brought together hundreds of peer educators from rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities around the country. Their goal? To make available to the 27% of U.S. ratepayers served by consumer-owned utilities the kind of cost-effective energy efficiency programming now available to most Americans through investor-owned utilities.
Montana has a proud tradition of providing low-cost, locally owned and operated electricity through 24 energy distribution co-ops’ (that sell electricity at retail rates directly to 500,000 rural, often low-income Montanans). These small co-ops face big challenges in providing clean energy services to isolated members across large service territories. “These consumers have below average access to energy conservation and energy efficiency programming, such as energy audits, rebates, retrofits, smart meters, energy efficiency loan finance, and general energy conservation education” Carrie explained. “… and most of these households are poorly equipped to absorb escalating energy costs.”
With Fellowship funding, Carrie intends to launch a pilot program to bring baseline energy efficiency programming to a local cooperative, in part through cooperation with the same utility peer leaders who already serve as ambassadors.
By creating a viable model, Carrie will have a model to offer to other state associations and increased credibility in promoting energy saving ideas in other states. “It’s a new project with major potential to scale up.”