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Exploring Energy Monthly Series

exploring energyThe Montana Renewable Energy Association is excited to host Exploring Energy – a monthly series of virtual, lunch-time presentations exploring energy issues impacting Montana. Join MREA and our guest speakers as we explore topics related to renewable energy technology, tackle the latest trends in energy development, and connect with experts from across the industries and fields working on the future of our energy system.

Each presentation will be hosted on the first Wednesday of the month at 12:00 pm MT when we will explore energy here in the Big Sky and beyond!

>>  Please Register in Advance  <<

UP NEXT: October 4

  MREA's Exploring Energy SERIES

Monthly (First Wednesdays) @ 12:00 PM MT


 Past Presentations and Recordings


September 6 – Weatherization and Electrification
Improving the shell of your home or business is a must before you electrify. Learn some of the key principles of weatherization, the type of work completed through weatherization, efficiency considerations and choosing the right applicances, and more with educators from the Montana Weatherization Training Center located in Bozeman, MT. No matter your income level, Montana families can achieve cleaner, more efficient energy practices through weatherizing - starting right at home! View slide deck.
Guest Speakers:
Aaron Mugaas, Program Director, Montana Weatherization Training Center
Brian Nickisch, Weatherization Instructor, Montana Weatherization Training Center                                                

August 2 – Reaping Energy Benefits in Ag Country
Farms, ranches, and rural businesses can save money and transform their operations with a shift to renewable resources and efficiency measures. But getting started is often a challenge. Join MREA and USDA-Rural Development Montana Office experts to hear how farmers and ranchers are rising to the occasion, using cleaner power sources, and building a thriving small business environment in ag country. This talk focuses on Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees & Grants (REAP), and *new* program changes designed to make renewable energy and efficiency solutions more accessible to rural Montanans. View slide deck.
Guest Speakers:
Lad Barney, Business & Cooperative Programs Director, USDA-Rural Development (Montana) Daniel Layton, Business Programs Specialist, USDA-Rural Development (Montana)

July 5 – Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X)
As major weather events across the US strain grid reliability, Americans are increasingly interested in the resilience of backup power and the shift toward distributed generation. As EV adoption increases, the question of EV battery to home power and battery to grid capabilities comes to mind. Some EV manufacturers and EV charging port providers boast bidirectional charging capabilities. But what will it actually take for EVs to rev our ride AND power our homes? Join the conversation and stay up to date with this cutting edge EV topic.
Guest Speakers:
Jay Warmke, Author/Educator, SolarPV
Tony Frisone, Co-founder/CEO CZAR-Power


January 5 – Third Party Financing
Across the country, Americans are using third-party financing to help pay for solar and other distributed generation projects. Third-party financing, like solar leases and power purchase agreements, offers new ways for homes, businesses, schools, libraries, and governments to cover the up-front cost of an installation. For various reasons, third-party financing hasn't taken off in Montana – until now. Join MREA and our guest speakers as we explore the basics of third-party financing, the success other states have had, and how the Missoula County Jail project has demonstrated how this model could work here in Montana.
Guest Speakers:
Jenny Heeter, Senior Energy Analyst, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Diana Maneta, Sustainability Program Manager, Missoula County

February 2 – Nuclear Energy
In Montana, and in states around the U.S., energy experts and decision makers are discussing what role, if any, nuclear energy should play in a clean energy future. Nuclear energy facilities can provide consistent and emissions-free power, but come with a heavy price-tag, including a waste stream that takes thousands of years to become safe. Should nuclear be part of a clean energy future? Can nuclear even be considered ‘clean’? In this month’s webinar, our presenters will discuss the benefits and challenges of nuclear energy in the market today, and how that may impact nuclear development in the coming years.
Guest Speakers:
Don Hyndman, Professor Emeritus of the University of Montana
Scott Williams, former Executive Director of Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah)

March 2 – Storage and Batteries
Discussions of renewable energy have increasingly focused on the role of storage, and batteries in particular. If you have your own renewable energy system, or are considering installing one, you also may be wondering how battery storage fits into the picture. What are the options for battery storage? Can battery storage help with resilience in grid outages? How can it enhance the benefits of renewable energy generation? In this month’s webinar, we address these questions and more as we explore the role that storage and batteries can play in small scale renewable energy systems.  
Guest Speakers:
Dan Brandborg, Co-Owner of SBS Solar

April 6 – Microgrids
Our current energy system is based on a large, national and regional grid that spans our entire country. However, microgrids – which can provide independent power for a small number of energy customers during outages – are becoming more common as communities seek ways to increase their own grid resilience and security. But what are microgrids? How do they work? And what are their benefits? This month’s presentation discusses the basics of microgrids, the practical aspects of how to fund and finance these projects, and how they fit into our energy future.  
Guest Speakers:
Kelsey Jones, Program Manager, Electricity and Energy Security, National Association of State Energy Officials
Alex Pina, Director, Converge Strategies, LLC
Kiera Zitelman, Technical Manager, Center for Partnerships & Innovation, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners

May 4 – Commercial-Property Assessed Capital Enhancements (C-PACE)
Commercial – Property Assessed Capital Enhancements (C-PACE) is a new financing option for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Counties across the state are going through the simple process of establishing their participation in the program, which was recently enabled in the 2021 legislative session, and we are excited to focus this month on exploring what that can mean for commercial property owners and the contractors that will be executing their projects. Tune in to learn more about how your community can participate, what commercial properties qualify, and how to become a registered contractor. 
Guest Speakers:
Seth Lutter, Associate Director of Montana Facility Finance Authority
Adam Gill, Executive Director of Montana Facility Finance Authority

June 1 – Energy Subsidies
Whether its solar, wind, oil & gas, or coal, financing incentives such as tax breaks and tax credits greatly impact whether an energy project comes to fruition. Financing incentives can also be a tool for our local, state, and federal governments to drive growth in specific industries to create jobs, serve policy goals, and more. These 'subsidies' can be controversial, especially in the political arena, with advocates of their favorite type of energy source complaining that others are unfairly or unnecessarily subsidized. Join us as we identify, discuss, and measure some of the different types of subsidies that various types of energy projects have available to them.
Guest Speakers:
Robin Arnold, Renewable Northwest Project
Dr. Richard Ready, Ph.D., Montana State University

September 7 – Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands
Indigenous communities in Montana and across the country are using renewable energy as a means to diminish poverty, mitigate climate change, and promote a self-determined restoration of sovereignty. Join us to hear from our guest speaker, Chéri Smith who is Co-Creator and Managing Director of Indigenized Energy Initiative (IEI). IEI works side-by-side with Native communities to design strategies and projects that help tribal nations move away from fossil fuels and towards clean, modern, and regenerative energy systems.   
Guest Speakers:
Chéri Smith, Indigenized Energy Initiative  

October 5 – Meet and Greet with the Executive Director
This month we will meet with Makenna Sellers, MREA's new executive director, for a conversation on the role of MREA in Montana's renewable energy future. Whether your interest is legislative action, industry networking, or community education, this is a great space to share, celebrate, and grow. Can't make the October 5 meeting? Send your ideas or other input about MREA to Makenna at
Makenna Sellers, Executive Director, Montana Renewable Energy Association

November 2 – How the Inflation Reduction Act Impacts Labor
Long before the major federal investments through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), labor unions have been gearing up to meet the needs of a changing renewable energy industry. But how does recent federal policy incentivizing the transition to renewables relate to labor unions? Guest speaker Kate French from the BlueGreen Alliance offers perspective on how the IRA relates to job creation, and will highlight key provisions that maximize benefits for workers and a clean energy economy. This presentation includes space to hear considerations from a labor and climate-driven point of view, as well time for our own questions and challenges therein. View slide deck.
Guest Speakers:
Kate French, Rocky Mountain Field Organizer, BlueGreen Alliance

December 7 – How the Inflation Reduction Act Impacts Your Home
There's lots of buzz about the Inflation Reduction Act, one of the most significant climate bills in the history of the U.S. Along with the buzz comes a slough a questions about rollout and applicability. Many Montanans are asking: how will these rebates and tax incentives affect my home and family, and when should I plan my home energy upgrades? Cora Wyent, Research Associate at Rewiring America, joins us this December with answers. This Exploring Energy Series is a deep dive on home electrification incentives, home improvements and appliance rebates, and qualification criteria that exists within the IRA. View slide deck.
Guest Speakers:
Cora Wyent, Research Associate, Rewiring America