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Idaho Power First NW Utility to Commit to Entirely "Clean" Grid

With coal becoming less affordable, Idaho Power says it will transition completely to renewable energy sources, like wind, over the next two decades. (U.S. Department of Energy/Flickr)
With coal becoming less affordable, Idaho Power says it will transition completely to renewable energy sources, like wind, over the next two decades. (U.S. Department of Energy/Flickr)
March 27, 2019

BOISE, Idaho - Idaho Power is being praised for announcing that the company will clean up its grid completely by 2045.

The biggest utility in the state, which serves about 560,000 customers, is the first to set such goals in the Pacific Northwest, and also among the first in the nation. Gov. Brad Little said the company is doing what's right for "customers' pocketbooks and the environment."

Ben Otto, energy associate for the Idaho Conservation League, said it makes economic sense for Idaho Power to transition away from coal.

"Idaho Power made this decision," he said, "and how we've been pushing them to make this decision is looking hard at what is the way to keep electricity affordable. The analysis shows that relying on coal is not a way to keep rates affordable, and transitioning into these other resources is."

The utility already has made commitments to stop using power from several coal plants in the region. Along with Portland General Electric, Idaho Power is closing an Oregon coal plant in 2020. It's also shutting down one unit at a Nevada coal plant at the end of this year, and its second unit in 2025, and could close its first of three units at a Wyoming plant as early as 2022.

Idaho Power has said hydropower already meets about half of its customers' needs. On Tuesday, the company also announced it would purchase 120 megawatts of solar power from a plant near Twin Falls. By reinvesting energy dollars in the state, Otto said, the plan will be a boon for Idaho's economy, too.

"We historically have had coal power that we import from neighboring states," he said. "But that means the money that we Idahoans spend flows out, flows away to those places. Any time you invest money in a state, you're going to have job growth, you're going to have tax-base growth."

Otto said the 25-year timeline will give the utility the opportunity to help communities where coal manufacturing is slowing down. The city of Boise also has unveiled a plan to rely solely on renewable energy by 2040.

Information about the utility's plan is online at idahopower.com.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID