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Public Can Comment on ID Utility's Future Energy Plans

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Utility company Avista has committed to providing 100% clean energy by 2045. (lovelyday12/Adobe Stock)
Utility company Avista has committed to providing 100% clean energy by 2045. (lovelyday12/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID - Producer, Contact
August 4, 2020

SANDPOINT, Idaho -- Idahoans will get a chance to have their voices heard on their energy future this week. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is holding a virtual public hearing on Avista's 20-year integrated resource plan on Wednesday.

The city of Sandpoint, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Forest Group and Avista customers have been calling for a public meeting on the plan since March. Matt Nykiel, conservation associate in Sandpoint with the Idaho Conservation League, said being able to speak about this plan is different than writing a comment.

"Not only is it a more powerful way to connect Avista customers with their public oversight body and their electric company, but it's a way for customers and Idahoans to hear what other people are thinking about in terms of where they're getting electricity from," Nykiel said.

Avista serves about 133,000 customers in northern Idaho.

Nykiel said his organization is generally supportive of the direction Avista is heading. The company has committed to being carbon neutral by 2027 and providing 100% clean energy by 2045.

But, he added, the company is accounting for the social cost of carbon - or the cost of climate change - for its Washington customers, but not its Idaho customers.

Because climate change is becoming a more pressing challenge, Nykiel also believes Avista needs to speed up its timetable for transitioning to clean energy.

"We think Avista needs to be looking a little harder and with more creativity and more urgency to reduce their carbon emissions quicker," he said.

Nykiel said there is evidence Avista is willing to accept clean energy more quickly. He highlighted its integrated resource plan from two years ago, when the company planned to stay invested in Colstrip - the biggest coal plant in the West - through 2045.

Avista has changed its mind on that, and Nykiel said that is in part because operating fossil fuels has become less economically viable.

"We really need to be thinking and looking more closely at not only coal, but gas, and asking ourselves is this a financially sound idea for Idahoans to be investing in fossil fuels at this point?" He said.

Written comments from the public on Avista's integrated resource plan are due by August 19. Wednesday's public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Pacific time.

Disclosure: Idaho Conservation League contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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