Idaho Power's 2019 Energy Mix

Proponents of a clean energy future in Bellevue got a boost of public support Monday, as the City Council unanimously passed a resolution to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2045 and 100 percent clean electricity by 2035.

The vote came just after a presentation from Idaho Power representative Megan Ronk, outlining the utility company’s goal to transition to 100 percent carbon neutral energy sources by 2045.

“Idaho Power wants to be Bellevue and the Wood River Valley’s partner in attaining its clean energy goals,” Ronk said. “We know it’s the right thing to do.”

Blaine County, Ketchum and Sun Valley have already signed similar resolutions.

City Councilman Chris Johnson said these were “lofty goals,” but was in the end convinced by the rest of the council to pass the resolution.

“I doubt if we will get to 90 or 100 percent,” Johnson said. “My biggest issue is with the city’s fleet of automobiles. Public works just got a new [gas powered] vehicle that I hope lasts more than nine years.”

City Councilman Greg Cappel said a concerted push could trigger systemic changes.

“It’s not just about our county or our state,” Cappel said.

City Council Chair Kathryn Goldman, who initiated the conversation about clean energy goals last month, said grants and cost-sharing opportunities with other municipalities will likely help the city reach its goals.

An effort by the city of Hailey to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocols to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels eventually triggered a series of valley-wide conservation grants in 2011 under the Hailey Climate Community Challenge, made possible in part by a $472,000 grant awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“We won’t be out there alone,” Goldman said.

Ronk said Idaho Power was already well on its way to a clean energy model, with 44.8% of its energy portfolio coming from hydropower sources, compared to 7% nationally. She presented a graph that showed that the company’s energy portfolio in 2019 also included long-term purchases of renewable energy credits (19.3%) from wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, biomass and other sources.

Renewable energy credits are bought and sold on the energy grid to support the market in clean energy production.

Ronk said Idaho Power intends to meet its clean energy goals by continuing a “glide path away from coal” that would include decreasing its reliance on coal fired energy facilities in Wyoming, Oregon and Nevada, while ramping up energy purchases from facilities like Jackpot Solar, a 120 megawatt solar array—Idaho’s largest—scheduled for completion by late 2022.

“We think the future will look like this: A combination of solar, wind and battery storage,” Ronk said.

Ronk’s presentation included a slide that illustrated a need for infrastructure development that would be required to meet the clean energy goals, including electrical lines across several western states.

“It is likely that the energy portfolio selected for a 100% Zero Carbon scenario would require dozens of new high-voltage transmission lines,” it stated.

Mayor Ned Burns asked whether a recent proposal by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson to restore salmon runs by removing hydropower dams on the lower Snake River could threaten Idaho Power’s reliance on clean energy and alter its plans.

“Those four dams are not any of the 17 in Idaho Power’s system,” Ronk said. “But we will continue to keep an eye on hydropower in the Northwest.”

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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