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The Weekly Sun Columns
Kiki Tidwell Focuses on Energy Issues
As a leading Idaho energy advocate and investor; a philanthropist with a proven nonprofit and angel investment background; a successful Kauffman Center for Venture Education fellow and an accomplished businesswoman, Kiki’s energy leadership background and potential is appreciated by those who work on clean energy issues in Idaho. She is known as a tireless and accomplished mid-career innovator and strategic thinker, and her dedication as an energy philanthropist and her relentless pursuit of continuing education and career advancement have established Kiki as one of our foremost leaders and mentors for those following in her footsteps. Kiki is dedicated to pragmatically and creatively navigating what many of us view as a challenging yet promising political and economic climate in Idaho. She is highly regarded in and beyond Idaho for her ability to leverage her considerable financial talents with her knack for identifying unmet sustainable energy potential in potential new clean energy entrepreneurs and investors, but also her support of Idaho’s most effective energy advocates. As a pioneer in the arena of corporate shareholder activism, Kiki’s counsel is regularly sought by those of us who work to affect energy and climate action at all levels – including in corporate boardrooms.
Kiki was involved in clean energy work well before 2009, when she attracted national acclaim through her organization and financing of the nation’s first successful corporate shareholder resolution to direct a U.S. electric utility to reduce its climate changing power plant emissions. Underwriting a 2009 shareholder resolution in partnership with green investment nonprofit As You Sow and also with key clean energy allies, Kiki initiated a successful dialog between one of the Northwest’s largest electric utilities, Idaho Power, and state and regional clean energy advocates. Her shareholder resolution made electric utility history by winning actual approval of the resolution over the utility’s fierce opposition. At the same she forced Idaho Power to write a low-carbon energy strategy, Kiki helped unite Idaho clean energy entrepreneurs – notably developing wind and solar power businesses – to establish themselves across Idaho and also to overcome fierce utility opposition to meeting their federally imposed clean energy acquisition requirements under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978. Kiki convened meetings of wind and solar energy developers, tirelessly briefed Idaho’s governor and other decision-makers, and galvanized clean energy advocates such as the Snake River Alliance, the NW Energy Coalition, Climate Solutions and others in developing a landmark sustainable energy roadmap for Idaho despite resistance from the state’s climate change-denying political establishment. In her more than 10 years of clean energy activism, Kiki has not only helped redefine how Idaho’s utilities view their clean energy obligations, but she also provided the earliest frameworks for our developing clean energy advocacy work and Idaho’s formative energy developers. Subsequent to leading the Idaho Power “shareholder revolt,” Kiki has immersed herself into the world of angel investing and venture capital. She continues to build on her Kauffman Fellowship experience and in multiple clean energy “angel investment” endeavors.
As described above, Kiki’s clean energy campaigning earned the recognition of our state’s decision-makers, but also from state and regional clean energy advocates and from such influential media as “High Country News,” which in 2013 featured her longshot fight against a powerful utility and leading what Idaho Power’s CEO labeled “a minority in the state that have taken exception to what we have done. “ “Kiki Tidwell is one of that minority’s most vocal members,” HCN reported. “On a sunny day last September, the petite, well-coiffed blonde sat in her Settle condo happily discussing clean energy, producing stacks of research and hand-written notes. ‘We are in the early stages of a massive market with global ramifications.’ Tidwell doesn’t call herself an environmentalist. She prefers ‘capitalist’ and is an ardent free-market Republican. But she sees renewable energy as a tool for rural development. Idaho could generate 18,074 megawatts of energy from wind, but has only 972 megawatts of installed capacity. Tidwell believes that developing more wind and solar, while increasing energy conservation through a fleet of recently installed smart meters, could give Idaho counties tax revenues while saving consumers money.” Kiki does not seek accolades; her leadership stems from a tenacious, strategic, and factually sound and respected body of research. She is a conduit for sustainable energy resources and imparts that information to those around her, whom she supports financially and as a mentor. This is particularly important for women in Idaho’s fledgling clean-energy field, which continues to be populated primarily by skilled males. Outside of her energy work, Kiki has a record of grant-making, board, and other leadership capacities with the likes of the Idaho Community Foundation, K-12 Grants Committee Social Venture Partners, the Governor’s Coordinating Council for Families & Children, and the Blaine County Foster Parent Support Group.
Kiki’s education, business and environmental life, work, and passions continue to be exemplified and informed by her belief that mid-career women must have a greater voice in the green energy field in which she has been a pioneer for more than a decade. This is a field not often known for recognizing the work of women, and that’s doubly true in the utility industry. Kiki’s work on behalf of sustainable energy practices and her still-unfolding story is a beacon for aspiring women in the prime of their careers. As much as any clean energy advocate in our state, Kiki has shown many of us in our field how to effectively navigate a tough business and one always known as gender-blind. Yet she has been at the center of what for nearly a decade has been a tectonic shift in the world of clean energy in Idaho. She is a nimble, tactful, and effective pioneer in Idaho’s sometimes rough political and cultural landscape. Her accomplishments and leadership for those of us advancing progressive climate and energy policies is valued throughout our field. As a veteran of the “clean energy wars” in Idaho and the West, and as a former Board Chair of the NW Energy Coalition, the Coalition’s first Idaho Clean Energy Advocate and its Idaho Caucus Chair, and as the Snake River Alliance’s former Clean Energy Program Director for nine years through November 2016, I wholeheartedly support Kiki Tidwell’s nomination for the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Award for 2017 and for recognition of her work in the field of advocacy.Ken Miller
Editor, Idaho Energy Report, formerly with SRA