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What drives your interest in working on solar energy issues?

My career shifted after meeting Christine Ervin, one of the founders of the US Green Building Council, about 15 years ago.  She opened my eyes to the urgency in this world of shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy to preserve our world for future generations.  I went back to school for an ecological design degree and started working with public and private sector clients to get LEED certified, save energy, and shift to renewable sources of energy.  Having worked with nearly a dozen cities to save energy, I am familiar with the difficulties under-resourced communities face in gaining access to solar and other cleantech options. In particular, I worked with the City of Ketchum (my hometown) to develop annual sustainability plans for 2019, 2020, and 2021, which included doing studies on installing renewable energy on critical services such as the wastewater treatment plant, fire station, and pump houses.  I firmly believe that it is a security issue to shift critical services to renewable energy.  I believe that solar power is the way of the future and creates an energy source modeled after nature.  I also recognize the barriers that customers face in a State like Idaho where recent PUC decisions have made solar more difficult and legislative decisions have made it more challenging for local communities to control their building codes, so it is important to me to counter that with more solutions to create more resilient communities.  

What impact do you feel the SolSmart program and you as an Advisor will have on the communities with which you will work?

I believe this opportunity will provide communities with access to solar resources and solutions they otherwise wouldn’t have. Many of the rural communities in Idaho receive ample sun and are prime areas to utilize solar power, but many communities are not aware of the economic advantage solar provides, the options for encouraging solar, or do not have the upfront funding to make the initial investment in solar. The SolSmart program can aid these communities by educating decision makers and citizens on the long-term cost savings and other benefits. Having worked with multiple cities on resilience initiatives, the SolSmart program is a logical next step for many of these cities who have started by conserving energy and are primed to start considering renewable energy as a key component in community resilience.

What aspects of your work plan are you most excited about working on?

I am looking forward to continuing to work with several cities to progress from energy efficiency to embracing solar. I am also excited to form relationships with new cities in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon.  The SolSmart program will provide resources, advice, and recognition for cities struggling to find the resources to break down barriers to solar and encourage it in their communities. 

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

I hope to see more and more cities in the intermountain west transition to clean, renewable energy to protect the future of my son and all other children hoping to have a prosperous future.

About Sharon