Idaho’s Quest For Renewable Energy

The current population of Idaho is estimated to be 1.79 million people. In January 2019, state utilities used renewable energy (73.4%) and natural gas (26.6%) to generate electricity. Hydropower is the primary sources of renewable energy in Idaho.
Idaho’s reliance on renewable energy contributes to their low electricity prices. In 2018, the average price of residential electricity in the state was 9.8 ¢ per kWh, which is the 9th cheapest price in the United States. The average price of electricity in the United States is 12.5 ¢ per kWh.

Idaho legislators have yet to establish any renewable energy or greenhouse gas emissions goals. State utilities continue to develop new renewable energy projects. Why? Economics pure and simple. Onshore wind, solar and hydropower are a cheaper source of power than any form of fossil fuel.

The states of Idaho and Oregon have reached an agreement on a hydroelectric project on the Snake River that requires an Idaho utility to spend about $312 million on water quality and habitat improvements. The Idaho Power Company has been trying to obtain a new 50-year license for the Hells Canyon hydropower complex from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The Idaho Power Company hydropower license application has been delayed due to a fight between the state governments of Idaho and Oregon. Oregon insisted on returning federally protected salmon and steelhead above the dams. Idaho officials didn’t want the fish above the dams because that could force restoration work in agricultural areas.

The dispute between the two states was resolved by Idaho Power approximately $300 million as part of the Snake River Stewardship Program on fish, water and habitat. The two states also agreed to discuss fish passage 20 years into the new license. Idaho Governor Brad Little stated, “This long-awaited agreement supplies clean, affordable energy for Idahoans, improves water quality, and provides additional fish for recreational and tribal ceremonial purposes.”

In the Pacific Northwest, Idaho has a substantial lead in the development of renewable energy. Oregon and Washington legislators have passed green energy programs, however; these programs have done little to develop new renewable energy projects. Perhaps Green New Deal advocates in Oregon and Washington should look to Idaho on how to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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