Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA) advocates primarily for the spread of solar power in Montana. As of September 2023, MREA has 35 members, mostly consisting of solar energy companies. 1
MREA is an affiliate of the American Solar Energy Society. 2
Montana Renewable Energy Association opposed HB 448, which was tabled in April 2023. HB 448 was written to support businesses, schools, and libraries in constructing large solar panel networks, but after numerous amendments, the bill was allegedly “hijack[ed]” by utility companies so that it would raise electricity rates on solar panel owners. 3
MREA opposes SB 524, which would subject nonprofits to a business tax (at 6.75%) on costs associated with suing the state regarding natural resources or environmental laws. 4
MREA opposed HB 359, which was withdrawn in February 2021. MREA claimed that HB 359 would “effectively destroy Montana’s solar industry and cost the state hundreds of well-paying jobs provided by local businesses across the state” by reducing the value of solar energy credits (earned by solar energy producers by selling energy back to the grid) by 70 percent. 5
Montana Rural Solar Access Project
Montana Renewable Energy Association runs the Montana Rural Solar Access Project to promote solar use in rural Montana, which composes 99 percent of the state. The project spreads awareness of solar power, provides information to interested buyers, and connects potential buyers with solar providers. 6
Montana Solar Powered Transportation Initiative
Montana Renewable Energy Association runs the Montana Solar Powered Transportation Initiative, a project to support the development of electric car infrastructure throughout Montana. 7
Clean Energy Fair
The Montana Renewable Energy Association has run an annual Clean Energy Fair since 2010. 8
In September 2022, Makenna Sellers became the executive director of the Montana Renewable Energy Association. During the prior year, Sellers was a labor union organizer for the Montana Nurses Association. From July 2017 to September 2021, Sellers worked at the Northern Plains Resource Council, an advocacy group for Montana farmers. In late 2017, Sellers also canvassed for the Montana League of Rural Voters. From August 2015 to May 2017, Sellers served as the sustainability campus coordinator at Gonzaga University. 9
Andrew Valainis was the executive director of the Montana Renewable Energy Association from November 2016 to July 2022, and is currently an associate at the Regulator Assistance Project, a weather-dependent energy NGO. After leaving MREA, Valainis was the climate-action coordinator for Missoula County for almost a year where he worked toward the goal of making the county carbon neutral. From 2011 to 2014, Valainis worked in a variety of roles at Climate Ride, a fundraising organization that organizes bicycling and hiking events to raise money for environmentalist nonprofits. Earlier, Valainis worked for Americorps, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and the Apeiron Institute for Sustainable Living. 10
In 2023, the Montana Renewable Energy Association received a $1,000 grant from the Helena Area Community Foundation, $900 of which came from Lewis and Clark County. 11
In 2022, MREA received $3,000 from the Cinnabar Foundation. 12
- “MREA Members.” MREA. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://montanarenewables.org/about-us/mrea-members/.
- “About MREA.” MREA. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://montanarenewables.org/about-us/.
- Valainis, Andrew. “Utility Hijacks Rooftop Solar Bill, Attacks Solar Professionals.” MREA. April 2, 2021. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://montanarenewables.org/programs/policy-advocacy/utility-hijacks-rooftop-solar-bill-attacks-solar-professionals/
- Ehrlick, Darrell. “Bill would tax nonprofits that bring lawsuits against government.” Daily Montanan. April 3, 2023. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://dailymontanan.com/2023/04/03/bill-would-tax-nonprofits-that-bring-lawsuits-against-government/.
- Valainis, Andrew. “Anti-Solar Bill Will Effectively Destroy Industry, Cost Montana Jobs.” MREA. February 10, 2021. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://montanarenewables.org/programs/policy-advocacy/anti-solar-bill-will-effectively-destroy-industry-cost-montana-jobs/.
- “Montana Rural Solar Access Project.” MREA. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://montanarenewables.org/mrsap/.
- “Montana Solar Powered Transportation Initiative.” MREA. Accessed September 22, 2023. http://montanasolartransportation.org/.
- “Annual Montana clean energy fair is coming back to Butte.” KXFL. August 10, 2021. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://www.kxlf.com/news/local-news/annual-montana-clean-energy-fair-is-coming-back-to-butte.
- “Makenna Sellers.” LinkedIn. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/in/makenna-sellers/.
- “Andrew Valainis.” LinkedIn. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-valainis-401/.
- “2023 Grant Award Recipients.” Helena Area Community Foundation. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://helenaareacommunityfoundation.org/1591-2/.
- “2022 Conservation Partners.” Cinnabar Foundation. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://www.thecinnabarfoundation.org/uploads/6/4/8/2/64822641/2022_cinnabar_grantees.pdf,
- “2017 Turner Foundation Awarded Grants.” Turner Foundation. Accessed September 22, 2023. http://www.turnerfoundation.org/files/documents/2017-grantees.pdf.
- “Montana.” Institute for Energy Research. Accessed September 22, 2023. https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/data/montana/.