Tuesday September 21, 2021 | 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Ballroom 100BC

The keynote session kicks off three exciting days of education and networking. HYDROVISION International 2021 is focused on bringing in top thought leaders in the industry to inspire the global community of hydro visionaries. This year, Jason Thackston, Senior Vice President, Energy Resources, and Environmental Compliance Officer at 2021 host utility Avista, will kick off the keynote by welcoming attendees and discussing hydropower’s importance in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Kelly Speakes-Backman, Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy, Kurt Miller, Executive Director at Northwest River Partners, and Mayor Nadine Woodward of Spokane, WA. will also give keynote presentations. The keynote will also feature the presentation of the 2021 Hydro Hall of Fame awards.

HYDROVISION International's Exclusive Sponsor of the Opening Keynote Coffee / Reception:


Keynote Speakers

Jason Thackston
Senior Vice President, Energy Resources – Avista.

Jason Thackston, SVP, Energy Resources - AvistaJason Thackston is senior vice president, energy resources for Avista. The energy resources group is primarily responsible for producing or procuring the electricity and natural gas to serve Avista’s customers’ needs, including the construction, operation, and maintenance of our generation facilities and the optimization of those electric and natural gas facilities for the benefit of Avista’s customers. The energy resources group also includes environmental affairs and real estate, including compliance with, and management of, the licenses issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorizing the Company to operate its hydroelectric facilities. He joined the company in 1996, where he previously held leadership positions in customer solutions, energy delivery, finance, risk management, investor relations, and corporate development.

Thackston holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Whitworth University with a major in international studies and an emphasis in business management. He earned his Master of Business Administration degree from Gonzaga University.

He serves on the boards of Whitworth University, the Spokane County United Way, the Association of Washington Business, the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee, and the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County.

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Kelly Speakes-Backman

Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) - U.S. Department of Energy

kelly speakes-backman keynote speaker

Kelly Speakes-Backman is the Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy. In her role, Speakes-Backman leads and directs EERE, focused on creating and sustaining American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy.  She oversees the planning and execution of the organization’s $2.8B portfolio of research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation.

Speakes-Backman most recently served as the first CEO of the Energy Storage Association, the national trade organization for the energy storage industry. She has spent more than 20 years working in energy and environmental issues in the public, NGO, and private sectors. In 2019, Speakes-Backman was honored by The Cleanie Awards as Woman of the Year.

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Kurt Miller

Executive Director - Northwest River Partners

kurt miller keynote

Kurt Miller is the executive director of Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP)—a not-for-profit organization that advocates hydropower for a better Northwest. Since joining in March 2019, Kurt has made it a priority to find collaborative, science-driven solutions to energy and environmental challenges.  Kurt has spent almost 30 years in the Northwest energy and utilities industry, and established the first successful electricity brokerage business in the U.S. He began his career at the BPA as an economist and spent 20 years at PGE in a variety of leadership and expert roles focused on energy supply, customer programs, and organizational change management.  While at PGE, Kurt spearheaded the development of the largest microgrid project in the region and led the successful completion of Oregon’s Electric Highway for electric vehicles.

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Mayor Nadine Woodward

City of Spokane, WA.

mayor woodward keynote

Born and raised in Washington State, Mayor Woodward believes in the value of hard work and giving back to the community. As Mayor, she looks forward to working with citizens and community leaders to move Spokane forward with positive and impactful solutions to today’s most pressing issues. 

With a passion for journalism and strong work ethic, Mayor Woodward worked her way through college, graduating from the University of Portland with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications Management. During her college years, she served on student government, was an editor on the student newspaper, an award-winning member of the debate team, and did video production work.

After arriving in Spokane in 1990, Mayor Woodward had a 28-year career as an award-winning broadcast journalist on local television. She passionately reported on Spokane issues – from the change in city government to a “strong mayor” system, the revitalization of downtown, and the challenges of growth and development in our neighborhoods. During her television career, she made the Spokane community the focus of her work and was awarded the prestigious Silver Circle Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, one of the highest honors television professionals can achieve.

Mayor Woodward and her husband, Bruce, feel blessed to have been able to raise their two children in Spokane, spending many years involved with fundraising committees, teaching art, emceeing events, and coaching numerous sports. She remains committed to making sure Spokane is a safe, diverse, and growing city for all.

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