Industry mourns loss of Bob Anderson--clean energy champion, regulator, Montanan

21 October 2013 by Carl Levesque Carl Levesque

Industry members across the country are mourning the loss of Bob Anderson, the former commissioner of the Montana Public Service Commission and long-time champion of clean energy and the environment who touched the lives of countless individuals.

That indelible impact on others came not only out of his visionary leadership and intellect, but his unsurpassed joy for life, epitomized by a passion for adventure and (sometimes outrageous) sense of humor, those who knew him said.

Anderson died tragically in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in an automobile accident after—fitting to his nature and spirit—a successful climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of his 70th birthday celebration.  He completed the summit with his wife, Grace Anderson, who survived the accident and is recovering well.

The wind industry lost a true friend and ally in Bob, who played an early leadership role in West Wind Wires, later to become AWEA’s western regional transmission advisor, Western Grid Group.  Among other professional accomplishments, Anderson was a former chair of the Montana Public Service Commission, president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), a former board member of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council and a leader of nongovernmental organizations in the West working on a cleaner grid through the Western Clean Energy Advocates.

True to his passionate ways, Anderson never stopped working fervently for a better, cleaner grid. Recently he had been one of the regulatory sages guiding power industry reform efforts across the West, using his vast expertise in the economics, engineering, and politics of electric utility regulation.

Anderson’s ties with AWEA were close, stretching to several areas of the organization. For instance, he served as a mentor and partner of Rob Gramlich, Senior Vice President of Public Policy, while Gramlich was serving at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and that relationship continued when he moved on to AWEA.  “I was such a fan of his that I brought him on as an AWEA consultant after seeing first-hand how influential and persuasive he could be when we battled together supporting electricity open access and competition,” recalled Gramlich. “He was incredibly personable, genuine, and passionate—a natural leader.  He was a real asset to the wind industry.”

Yet, said Gramlich, Anderson will be missed perhaps more for his personal ways. “His smile and attitude, in addition to his professional contributions, will surely have lasting impact on a lot of people including the generations to come for whom he was working,” he said.

Anderson’s work helped lead the West to its 19,000 MW of wind power, partially by his playing a key role in the transformation of the region’s transmission planning process, which is now stakeholder-driven and focused on tapping remote areas rich in renewables. The region has achieved much forward progress toward a more modern and efficient grid including the start of an energy imbalance market. Anderson’s deep Montana roots, connection to the West and efforts to protect the region’s wild and pristine areas made him a natural leader and mentor on transitioning to a cleaner grid, friends and professional associates said.

“While he'd be proud of these milestones, Bob would tell us to keep at it, as there's much more work to be done,” said AWEA Western Regional Representative Tom Darin. “Because he led by example with the perfect blend of passion, smarts, wit and humor, we continue to be inspired. And because of that inspiration, we will achieve the additional milestones he envisioned.”

A particularly telling example of Anderson’s impact on the people around him can be found in a 2002 NARUC resolution honoring him upon his departure from the organization of regulators—a group who might be inappropriately imagined to be entirely serious. That certainly was not the case when it came to their embrace of their colleague Anderson, who apparently brought out the comical side in them, as he did with everyone. Just two examples of the many WHEREAS clauses of the official resolution:

WHEREAS, Bob Anderson does a really nasty Macarena for an aging Scandinavian with bad knees; and

WHEREAS, Unlike his role model Peter Pan, Bob Anderson has finally decided to give up the fairy dust and grow up….

As with some of the WHEREAS clauses not included here, the RESOLVED section turns poignant, particularly this week:

RESOLVED, That as Bob Anderson's stellar NARUC years come to a close, the NARUC Board of Directors, the Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment, and all his friends in public service wish Bob well as he hikes, paddles, strums, tosses, dribbles, dives, and bikes with Grace into that good night; and be it further

RESOLVED, That, Bob Anderson, you are leaving citizens, consumers, and the environment much better for your multitude of good works, and are leaving your friends with many, many good memories, and for all of that we thank you!

Photo credit: Milford Wind Project, Utah - First Wind