Billings could be a model for how a city can move toward clean energy in ways that create jobs and spur the local economy.
During a lunch meeting Tuesday of the Billings Business Roundtable, representatives from New Energy Cities, a program that works with Pacific Northwest cities to move to energy efficiency, discussed the possibilities for Billings.
Rhys Roth, a founder of New Energy Cities, told the group he’s on “a scouting mission in Montana’’ to see if cities have the desire and willingness to become a partner with the program. New Energy Cities also is meeting with community leaders in Bozeman and Helena.
About 35 business representatives, city officials, legislative representatives and candidates and community leaders attended the hourlong program at Montana State University Billings Downtown.
The luncheon was hosted by the Urban Institute at MSUB, Montana Business Leaders for Clean Energy and the Yellowstone Business Partnership.
New Energy is looking for about a dozen cities that want to be leaders for other communities on ways to move toward clean-energy systems, Roth said.
The program already has partnerships with about seven cities in the Northwest, including Jackson, Wyo., and Wenatchee, Wash.
Pioneering cities would then be able to share their experiences and work with other communities.
Candidate cities need to have political leaders committed to leadership and the support of the community, Roth said.
The program, Roth said, focuses on four main areas of an integrated energy system — efficient and smart buildings, smart power grids, plug-in electric vehicles and energy storage and renewable power sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.
The goal is to help cities move toward clean energy in ways that create local jobs, support economic development, reduce
vulnerability to energy price swings and leverage public investment with private investment, Roth said.
New Energy uses its expertise to work with communities to develop long-range plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Roth said.
The plans include innovative approaches to financing energy-efficient buildings and projects.
New Energy, which has offices in Seattle and Olympia, Wash., and Portland, Ore., is a partnership with Climate Solutions, a Pacific Northwest organization working to reduce global warming.
Billings, Roth said, already has several LEED-certified buildings, a rating that recognizes a building’s energy efficiency and has natural resources that includes wind, geothermal and solar potential.
And he noted the mix of business and political leaders attending the luncheon as key to having strong leadership for such a project.
The program included a tour of the High Plains Architects office, 2720 Minnesota Ave., which is a LEED Platinum-certified building.
The Klos building remodel converted an abandoned bar into a state-of-the-art architectural studio using sustainable energy-saving technology.