Increasing Access to Sustainable Energy for Idaho and the West
The need for thousands of megawatts of renewable energy throughout the West continues to grow as businesses, cities, and western states set policy targets to transition to a cleaner electric grid.
Idaho is joined in the pursuit of access to more renewable energy by Montana, Utah, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California, and companies like Micron, Meta, Clif Bar Baking Company, HP, and McCain Foods, among hundreds of other businesses.
In 2019, Idaho Power set an ambitious 100-percent clean energy goal by 2045 as the three coal fire plants in their energy portfolio are moved off-line according to the Idaho Power Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which examines the company’s projected need for additional electricity over the next 20 years. The IRP details the need for 3,700 new megawatts of clean energy over the next 23 years.
In a March 2019 statement from Idaho Power, the utility company announced it was moving forward to meet the 2045 goal with the support of consumers, businesses, and the state’s representatives.
“Providing 100-percent clean energy is an important goal for Idaho Power. More and more customers are telling us it is important to them, too,” former Idaho Power President and CEO Darrel Anderson said.
Clean energy resources are becoming more affordable, which could help Idaho Power accomplish its goal while keeping prices fair. Grid upgrades and battery-storage technology should help maintain Idaho Power’s impressive reliability while moving the company closer to its goal. Continued energy efficiency efforts will help.
“This plan demonstrates Idaho Power’s commitment to doing what’s right for customers’ pocketbooks and the environment,” Idaho Gov. Brad Little said. “It also shows innovation can improve our lives with solutions that are reasonably priced, responsible, and delivered without government intrusion.”
But moving toward more clean energy means advanced planning. While wind and solar advancements in technology make them a preferred source of energy creation, proposed projects must consider multiple factors, undergo extensive planning, data collection, and public comment before they can move forward.
Thoughtful planning and proposed projects by utility companies and energy developers can bring more than just access to clean energy – they can also provide an economic engine for the state, creating local jobs, ongoing substantial tax revenue, and another source of American-made energy to help create a more secure energy grid.
Homegrown Energy Puts America in Control of Our Power Supply
Idaho already exchanges its fair share of energy with neighboring states.
While most people believe Idaho is self-sufficient because of its incredible access to hydropower, Idaho relies on imported energy and a well-maintained infrastructure of transmission lines to deliver power at a low cost to Idahoans. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Idaho currently imports a third of its electricity from other states saving consumers and utility companies like Idaho Power millions of dollars annually.
To keep power bills lower for consumers, Idaho utilities and power companies in surrounding states participate in the Western Energy Imbalance Market, which allows utilities to buy and sell power close to the time energy is consumed. Expanding the network of power generators available to utilities regardless of location has led to significant cost savings for electric customers. For Idaho Power alone, the savings in the second calendar quarter of 2022 amounted to $8.4 million.
“Idaho’s resilient and diversified economy is fueled by energy-dependent sectors, including technology, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, healthcare, and construction, all of which benefit from Idaho’s low cost of energy,” according to the Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy and Mineral Resources Idaho Energy Landscape 2022 report. “The state’s reliance upon imported energy requires a robust and well-maintained infrastructure of highways, railroads, pipelines, and transmission lines to facilitate economic development and maintain a high quality of life for Idaho’s citizens.”
Renewable energy projects like the two proposed by Magic Valley Energy (MVE), an affiliate of leading American energy development company LS Power, give Idaho and surrounding western states a new option to fill the enormous demand for energy as the economy and clean-power needs continue to grow.
Lava Ridge and Salmon Falls Wind, two MVE projects proposed in Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, and Twin Falls Counties on primarily federal lands, allow for another opportunity for power to be bought and used in-state by an Idaho utility or business – or purchased as an export commodity – a win for both Idaho and consumer’s power bills.
The two proposed projects alone would add more than 1,800+ megawatts of sustainable, clean energy while bringing stable, well-paid career opportunities and substantial tax revenue for Magic Valley counties which could lower property taxes, levies, and bonds for Magic Valley homeowners.
Wind projects in Idaho generate annual tax revenues, bringing three percent of a project’s revenue back into local coffers. Lava Ridge and Salmon Falls Wind projects would bring more than $6.3 Million annually for up to 30 years into local schools, recreation districts, cemeteries, fire departments, and county general funds. This would mean a considerable boost for school districts like Filer and Jerome, Shoshone, and Dietrich.
Renewable energy projects, including Lava Ridge and Salmon Falls, are critical to putting America in control of our power supply, keeping costs lower for families, and bringing a positive, sustainable economic impact for Idaho now and in the future.