Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With funding available, the city and county of Missoula are joining forces to create a new rebate program aimed at energy efficiency as they pursue their climate action goals.

Members of the Missoula City Council on Wednesday approved the city's side of the agreement, which will last two years and comes with no local fiscal impact.

“Missoula County initiated a contract with the Montana Department Environmental Quality to secure initial funding for this rebate program,” said Evora Glenn, the city's climate and sustainability specialist. “The agreement establishes the guidelines for the program, as well as the city and county's commitment to the joint effort.”

Both the city and county have adopted a number of goals and commitments to reduce their carbon footprint. Among them, they both have goals to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2030, become carbon free by 2035 and achieve a 90% waste reduction by 2050.

Other efforts have included a greenhouse gas inventory and a shift to cleaner technology.

“One of the strategies of that plan is to transition our buildings to be operated by electric, highly efficient technologies,” said Glenn. “Transitioning our buildings to be powered by electricity allows them to be powered by renewable energy, which allows us to minimize our greenhouse gasses from that sector.”

Glenn said electrifying certain operations with new, efficient technology will also enable local government and local residents to be more resilient to change. It also minimizes the energy demand on the current electrical grid.

“When we do have extreme climate impacts with natural disasters and weather events, those usually coincide with high demands on our electricity system,” Glenn said. “If we minimize our baseline demand, it helps us be resilient to those impacts.”

Glenn said the city and county have worked with Climate Smart Missoula on an “electrify Missoula campaign.” It provides resources on highly efficient electric appliances and systems, and also serves as a resource on available incentives.

But Glenn said some hurdles can complicate the transition, including cost.

Evora Glenn
Evora Glenn

“The up-front cost can still be higher for those highly efficient electric technologies,” she said. “We see a well-designed rebate program as having the capacity to advance adoption in a meaningful way in our community by bringing the cost burden down to make that transition.”

The city and county have been working with DEQ to identify funding the state agency can provide to the program. They also believe funding is available from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Such funding could be applied to launch a local rebate program, accelerating Missoula's shift to cleaner technology.

“Both of those allocated funding toward energy efficiency programs, as well as local financing programs,” Glenn said. “As we move forward with this rebate, we're taking that context of future funding opportunities into consideration as well.”

For more information, visit Climate Smart Missoula.