Billings City Council members expressed interest Monday night in reforming its energy conservation commission, an advisory board the council used from 2006 to 2010. 

The commission would consist of seven members who would evaluate the city's energy use and then create strategies and plans that would help the city more efficiently use energy in its existing buildings and upcoming building projects.

The idea would be to "optimize energy cost savings" and pursue "data-driven innovation," said Eric Schmidt, co-chairman of the group petitioning the city to reform the commission and an architect in training at High Plains Architects in Billings.

The group is a coalition formed by Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council, the League of Women Voters, and Angela’s Piazza.

As council members weighed the merits of reforming the commission, talk quickly centered on the benefits of spending less on energy and how to better publicize the work the city has already done to cut costs and conserve. 

NorthWestern Energy supplies the electricity for the majority of the city's facilities and offers the city various rebates for measures it takes to be more energy efficient. 

As an example, Saree Couture, the city's facilities manager, pointed to $578,000 Billings saved through rebates from NorthWestern.

Couture, along with council members, expressed general support for the commission but spoke of concerns about how the commission would communicate with city staff and how much time would be required of those staff members. 

Bill Cole directed the city administrator's office to research the issue so that the council could come back in the next month and vote on a resolution that would reform the commission. 

Also at the meeting Roy Neese, who was appointed in December to fill a vacancy on the city council, was sworn into office. Cole had previously administered the oath of office to Neese; the council had until its last meeting in December to do it lest the city be required to call a special election.

So Cole swore Neese into office again Monday night in order to let the public be part of the ceremony. 

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.