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Take Climate Change Action with OPALCO! Stewards, Energy Roundtables and Island Way Workshops

  • Are you looking for things you can DO to combat climate change?
  • Is there a home energy efficiency project you’d like to DO this year?
  • Do you have ideas for how we could shape our energy future in the San Juan Islands?

On January 18th, OPALCO kicked off the second year of the Island Way Campaign with a meeting of Co-op Stewards: members committed to understanding key co-op issues and taking action to help spread the word throughout the membership. The session was organized into action groups on key topics for the year: Efficiency and Conservation, Electric Vehicles – ferries and personal automobiles, Renewable Energy – Solar and Battery Storage and Power Rates. Each group came out with a list of action items.

Some of the big announcements included an expanded list of energy efficiency projects that can be financed on members’ bills through Switch it Up – including solar, weatherization and appliances; a series of Energy Roundtable meetings on Zoom where members can discuss the energy issues that matter most to them; a new Community Solar project on San Juan Island that members can invest in to offset their energy usage; and the beginning of a longer-term process to transition power rates for the decarbonized energy future that is coming fast.

A key discussion for climate change action is the electrification of our ferry system. The San Juan Islands route is currently pushed out to 2040 in the Washington State Ferries plan for a hybrid-electric ferry and OPALCO is advocating to get electric ferries on our route as soon as possible.. Members are encouraged to write to Senator Liz Lovelett (liz.lovelett@leg.wa.gov) and emphasize the urgency of deployment in our area sooner rather than later. The Salish Sea is the epi-center for key marine species whose survival depends on actions like these to reduce noise and pollutants in their habitat. OPALCO has a grant from the WA Department of Commerce’s Clean Energy Fund to design the infrastructure required to charge electric ferries when they dock in San Juan County and is a willing partner to help facilitate a faster deployment.

OPALCO received another round funding for it’s Switch It Up program: nearly $48M is available for member efficiency projects with a cost of ceiling of $100k per membership! The Switch It Up program lets members finance efficiency projects – upgrades and new construction – on their bill at a 2% interest over up to ten years. The  full list  of  measures with detailed specifications will be announced in March and include new options for Heating  Systems, Grid-Tied Solar + Battery  Storage, Appliances, Weatherization, Fiber to  the  Premise and Commercial Projects.

This year there will be many ways to get involved. A new series of Island Way workshops and Energy Round Tables will provide expert information and deep dives into topics such as climate change, ductless heat pumps, tracking your energy usage, power rates and electric vehicles as well as provide a forum for members ideas and have discussions. Find the full list of events at www.opalco.com/calendar.

As more efficiency measures and local solar production are installed on OPALCO’s system, there is greater pressure on rates to collect revenues that have traditionally been based on energy (kWh) sales. Join us for an ongoing discussion on how power rates must evolve to meet the needs of our energy future and keep wise use of electricity affordable. Rates will be discussed at the Energy Roundtable events, the annual meeting on April 30th and throughout the year at monthly board meeting.

Finally, a reminder that the OPALCO Board of Directors election is upon us. There are three positions  open: one each  in  District  1  (San  Juan,  Brown,  Henry,  Pearl and  Spieden  islands),  District  3 (Lopez,  Decatur,  Center and  Charles  islands,  District  4  (Shaw,  Bell,  Canoe  and  Crane islands).  Interested  candidates  can  find  out  how  to  apply  at  www.opalco.com/why-run. Applications by petition are due February 18. The election opens on March 11th and results will be announced at the virtual annual meeting on April 30th.