Making Energy Work for rural Oregon was a series of workshops put on in six different rural Oregon communities starting in the fall of 2015.
During these workshops, attendees learned about energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that could benefit their towns, and where to find the resources necessary to make those projects happen. This past Thursday, Douglas County hosted a Making Energy Work for Rural Oregon Symposium, a gathering of these communities with additional participation from Eugene, Ashland and Bend.
The symposium was put on by Sustainable Northwest, Lake County Resource Initiative, in collaboration with the Douglas County Smart Energy group. It was a two-day event full of sessions aimed at educating attendees on how to deal with an increasing demand for energy with smart energy choices.
How do you answer the need for more energy with few additional energy sources? The answer, a combination of behavior changes, the installation of efficient technologies and the creation of renewable energy projects. But the answer does not stop with the individual energy enthusiast or community action group. The problem is bigger than that, so the solution must be as well.
The symposium was created to bring together the stakeholders from past workshops in an effort to build a statewide energy network; a connected web of people from around Oregon that will be able to exchange ideas on what is working and what resources were utilized, how did a community finance their program or project, and to work together to share information and insights in the pursuit of their energy projects. Together, drawing on each other’s strengths and expertise, the answer to increasing energy demands can be answered.
Speakers at the symposium discussed current and past energy campaigns and projects that worked in their respective communities, to begin the conversation between communities. Energy campaign leaders shared about school education programs and community energy challenges that helped save energy, save money and increase solar energy installations.
Among the many technologies discussed by experts were irrigation monitoring, pumps with variable frequency drives to save energy and adding hydro to convert excess irrigation pressure into electricity. Local electric cooperatives and municipalities, such as Douglas County Electric Cooperative, Central Oregon Cooperative and the city of Ashland, came out to share what each of them are doing to further energy efficiency and renewable energy, providing a link of direct access between citizens and their power. Representatives from USDA Rural Development, Energy Trust of Oregon, Oregon Department of Energy and Northwest SEED highlighted incentives and grants available for potential energy projects. Government officials even came out to the symposium in an effort to show their support. The mayor of Eugene, Kitty Piercy, gave an inspirational keynote speech on the second day and mayor of Milwaukie, Mark Gamba, provided additional insights on encouraging local leadership to advance clean energy programs and policies.
The message was clear: with the help of counterparts, rural communities can control their own energy futures and help lead a cleaner energy economy.
With increased energy demand comes increased costs and, working together, this network of energy pioneers are finding answers that save their communities money and provide for their needs. With smart energy choices, our communities can save water, save energy and save money.
For tips on other ways to save and produce energy, visit dcsmartenergy.org. Douglas County Smart Energy is a project of the Douglas Count Global Warming Coalition. For more information about the coalition, call 541-672-9819 or find it on Facebook at DCSmartEnergy.