Montana Energy Corps: Community based, sustainable energy solutions

kaleena miller profile pictureMy name is Kaleena Miller and I am the Director of the Montana Energy Corps Program. Just over three years ago, I began searching for a way to trade in the fast-paced environment of New York for a new adventure in a different part of the country, or world for that matter. I‘d given the Peace Corps some thought several times throughout my early twenties, but never quite reached the end of the application. With my strong desire to use my environmental policy degree, I started looking at environmentally focused AmeriCorps programs located in the Northwest. I had heard AmeriCorps described as a domestic Peace Corps program, which was very appealing to me. As I searched the AmeriCorps portal, sifting through the hundreds of posted service positions, my initial curiosity became a sincere interest in working with communities on environmentally related issues.

Several weeks later, I found myself in Butte, America, beginning my Energy Corps term with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, or NCAT, as it is more commonly known. NCAT’s mission is to help people by championing small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources. During my service term, I engaged in several projects, including a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, a home energy workshop series and a k-12 wind energy curriculum project. As my first AmeriCorps term approached completion, I decided to sign up for an additional term. I felt as if I had barely scratched the surface of understanding my new community. Serving an additional term in Butte helped establish a stronger structure in which the projects could thrive. After completing my AmeriCorps service, I was hired on as the Energy Corps Coordinator in Montana, carrying out the mission of the program from the other side of the desk.

NCAT created the Energy Corps AmeriCorps program in 2008, addressing unmet community energy needs by promoting sustainable energy consumption and education, fostering community sustainability, and helping mitigate the effects of climate change. Energy Corps members help serve communities in need while gaining new skills and experiences. The program provides hands-on training and skills development to help design a green-collar workforce capable of meeting the needs of our energy future.

Over the last three years, the Energy Corps program has placed 50 service members throughout Montana. As part of the National Energy Corps program, those members contributed significantly to community progress, helping community members who needed energy assistance and education. Over the course of the last calendar year, Energy Corps members provided hands-on assistance for over 500 buildings in Montana. Hands-on energy assistance includes weatherization and conservation, energy assessments and consultations and alternative energy.

Energy Corps members promote energy and conservation awareness by developing and conducting education presentations, events, and training in energy efficiency and environmentally conscious practices. Last year alone, Energy Corps members educated almost 3,000 individuals on energy efficiency, renewables, and other sustainable practices and reached k-12 student populations as well as college audiences, community civic groups, and senior citizen centers. Presentation topics include “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, adult energy wise classes, renewable energy, and residential weatherization. Several members even led tours of recycling plants.

In addition to providing energy education and weatherization assistance, Energy Corps members receive professional development training during their service terms. Last year alone they attended a total of over 300 training events. The skills members acquire include residential energy efficiency and building science, efficient building techniques, sustainability curriculum development and the ability to conduct a complete residential energy audit.

To get involved with the Energy Corps program, you can visit our website at www.energycorps.org. We are currently recruiting for 13 new Energy Corps positions that will start service in six communities on October 1st of 2014. Please visit our website to read the position descriptions as well as download the application. Additionally, if you work with a nonprofit organization, educational institution, or a local municipality, and want to learn more about hosting an Energy Corps member, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are always looking for new partners. Again, our website is www.energycorps.org. You can also reach me directly at 406-494-4572.

Sitting here now, three years after my adventure in the West began, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to lead the Energy Corps program in a state that values and promotes the expansion of service and volunteer opportunities in every community.

In Butte with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, I’m Kaleena Miller for the Alternative Energy Resources Organization. AERO is a grassroots membership organization serving as Montana’s hub for sustainable communities: inspiring change, connecting local leaders, and building capacity for success across the state for 40 years. If you’d like to get involved, contact AERO at [email protected].

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