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Montana is well positioned to create new jobs, make our homes and businesses more efficient, and strengthen our outdoor economy by meeting the challenges of the recently announced Clean Power Plan.

Although critics wasted no time in responding with talking points centered on messages of “can’t do it” hopelessness, the fact is that Montanans will reap the rewards of an economy powered by renewable energy. Kids will be healthier. The jobs that rely on Montana’s outdoors will be more secure. And consumers will save money.

In fact, analysts say the new plan will save the average American family nearly $85 on their annual energy bills by the year 2030. It will save consumers $155 billion between 2020 and 2030.

Renewable success

In Montana, we already have a successful track record of encouraging growth in developing renewable sources of energy and preparing for the future — without raising costs to consumers. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.

Ten years ago, Montana lawmakers established a standard to encourage renewable energy construction. Since then, multiple studies have concluded the state’s transition to 15 percent clean renewable energy has not raised costs to consumers. The standard did, however, create more than 100 permanent jobs a year and thousands of construction jobs in just wind energy. Thanks to our standard, Montana has more jobs and is better prepared to meet the demands of the future.

Nobody can deny the Clean Power Plan sets ambitious new standards for Montana. But it also provides the Treasure State two important factors to help us succeed and to ensure electricity remains abundant and cost effective: time and flexibility.

Montana received an extended timeline to meet this new challenge. The state has 15 years, and fortunately we are already on track.

Montana’s power suppliers are already in the midst of a major change. Energy sources like wind, solar and natural gas are rapidly coming online to meet the demands of a new energy future. The cost of electricity from renewable sources has been declining for years, and will continue to go down.

Cheaper solar power

According to North Carolina State University, rooftop solar is already cheaper than grid electricity in 42 of America's 50 largest cities. The installed price of distributed solar power has fallen by half in just the last six years, and it continues to drop.

More importantly, Montana has flexibility to determine how it will prepare itself to meet the Clean Power Plan.

As a Montana wind developer, I know full well that Montana wind energy has already proven to be an effective and reliable energy source for our state, while bringing jobs and much-needed tax revenue to rural counties. My company, Montana Wind Resources, is pursuing a Montana-owned community wind project in Sweet Grass County that would supply competitively priced power to Montanans and recycle the profits back into the state.

Utility-scale wind and solar power shouldn’t do it alone. To prepare for the future, we will need smart investments in energy conservation, cleaner fossil fuel technologies, energy storage and distributed power systems. That’s why entrepreneurs like me are aggressively pursuing opportunities in deploying smart energy efficiency solutions, small-scale solar production and distributed energy storage applications. These technologies are producing big job gains and returning profits to their investors in other states. Montana shouldn’t be left behind and it’s incumbent on Montana leaders like Governor Steve Bullock to figure out how to support these industries here.

Montanans have an important choice. We can embrace ingenuity and innovation, respond to market forces, save consumers money and do the right thing for future generations. Or we can turn our backs and struggle to keep up.

Industry leaders stand prepared to help Montana meet this new challenge. We can develop new energy sources that put Montanans to work.

Rhyno Stinchfield, of Billings, is president of GreenWorld Partners and CEO/partner of Montana Wind Resources.

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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.