The Energy Out West conference is held every other year and began in 1996 when a group of people doing weatherization work in the Northwest thought they could help each other do it better. The current president of Energy Out West (EOW) is Mimi Burbage, who should be familiar to readers of Home Energy and anyone in weatherization. Mimi brings that independent, Alaska, straight talk style to whatever she does, from heading the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to her work for EOW. This year the conference is in Boise, Idaho, which some people call the Northern Austin and I can see their point. It’s not just about potatoes around here. Good food, good music, and great public art are in abundance.
The core conference began this morning, after coffee and scones, with some introductions and welcome by Carol Gates, from DOE’s Golden Field Office. Carol recounted some of the successes of the last few years and WAP’s part in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Here are some brag facts:
- More than 700,000 homes weatherized that will save $6.6 billion over the life of the measures; or $350 million each year.
- WAP ARRA efforts created the third highest job numbers, at 13,230 as of the 4th quarter of 2011.
- 377 MBtu of energy saved over the life of the measures; or 19 million MBtu per year.
The keynote speaker was Chris Gardner, the real life version of the man the actor Will Smith played in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.” He is funny, wise, original, and very memorable. He does a much better job of being himself than Will Smith did. He somehow integrates a very healthy positive self regard, honesty, compassion, and deep humility. Unique and inspirational.
It was a full day and I didn’t come close to taking in everything that was offered. Sue White of American Indian Professional Services, Inc., as she has done for years, talked about the financial side of running a weatherization agency. (She recieved the EOW President's award—see photo.) Thomas Brunet of California American Water put the fear-of-drought in all his listeners. He highlighted Monterey, California for using half as much water as they used only several years ago, through the outreach he did to encourage conservation, and by the city implementing a tiered payment system. The city uses about 2.5 kWh to move a unit of water from the source to the user. Compare that to LA, which uses almost 7 kWh to move the same unit of water. Then Bob Scott of the National Association of State Community Services Providers (NASCSP) depressed us, but not too much, by recounting how poorly the WAP program is being treated by the current dysfunctional Congress. He announced free beer at the reception after his talk, provided by Saturn Resources Management, and promised more hope for tomorrow.
- Jim Gunshinan
Photo caption: (from left to right) DOE's Carol Gates; Sue White, EOW President's Award winner; and EOW President Mimi Burbage. Photo by Dene Breakfield.