Ketchum looks poised to join Blaine County and the city of Hailey in adopting a resolution to achieve clean energy goals following a supportive discussion during its City Council meeting on Monday.
The resolution—passed by Blaine County on Oct. 27 and by Hailey on Nov. 9—was developed by the Wood River Valley Climate Action Coalition after more than 200 local residents signed a petition asking for a 100 percent clean energy commitment from county and city leaders.
It sets the following goals:
• One hundred percent clean energy for municipal electricity use by 2030, including at least 75 percent clean energy by 2025;
• One hundred percent clean energy for the communitywide electricity supply by 2035;
• Transition city and county fleet vehicles and equipment to 100 percent electric power as technologically and economically feasible by 2035;
• One hundred percent clean energy for all energy use by 2045.
Those goals would build on clean energy targets for 2030 set by the Ketchum Sustainability Action Plan, which include ensuring that the town’s normal energy load is met with “resilient” sources of energy, eliminating emissions from municipal vehicles and “decarbonizing” all city facilities.
The council took no action on the proposed resolution Monday; Mayor Neil Bradshaw said he would bring a document to the council for review and approval—with possible changes—during its Dec. 21 meeting. However, all council members voiced support for it.
Bradshaw said the city had received 110 emails and letters on the subject from members of the public.
“I think people want control over their power sources and to have a green grid locally,” Councilman Jim Slanetz said. “I am willing to back this and figure out ways to do it.”
Councilman Michael David noted that the resolution is not binding.
“We can’t do things that the city can’t do financially or are unfeasible for one reason or another,” he said.
The resolution was presented to the council by Wood River Valley Climate Action Coalition leadership team member Scott Friedman. The intent of the resolution’s goal is to ask Idaho Power to generate all of the community’s electricity from clean sources by 2035—about ten years ahead of the utility’s current plan, Friedman told the Express in an interview.
Idaho Power has stated that it plans to eliminate all coal-fired power production by 2030 and to be off all fossil fuels, including natural gas, by 2045. Friedman said his organization has been meeting with a representative from the utility company to discuss the accelerated schedule.
“Currently, they are saying we will work with you,” he said.
Regarding the resolution’s fourth goal—achieving 100 percent clean energy by 2045—Freidman said, “We literally mean off of all fossil fuels by 2045,”—including for structure heating and motor vehicles. He noted that natural gas heating would be converted to electricity, meaning most of those customers would transfer to Idaho Power.
At the meeting, Bradshaw raised several questions about reaching the resolution’s goals, including the cost to the valley’s cities and potential financial liability for requirements set on household energy use.
Bradshaw also noted that passage of the resolution could contribute to extending the life of existing hydroelectric dams.
Salmon advocates are asking for the removal of four dams on the lower Snake River to improve passage of salmon and steelhead that migrate between central Idaho and the Pacific Ocean. Hydropower facilities on the lower Snake are operated by the federal government, but Idaho Power spokesman Jordan Rodriguez said in an interview that compensation for the utility’s phase-out of coal-fired power production is likely to include purchases from other utilities, including those in the Northwest that get hydropower from the Columbia and Snake system. According to Idaho Power’s website, it plans to complete a 290-mile-long Boardman to Hemingway transmission line by about 2026 to connect hydropower generation in the Pacific Northwest to southwestern Idaho.
The resolution calls for formation of a regional stakeholder group that would consist of citizens and representatives from each city government, the county, businesses and local nonprofits to create a plan to achieve the clean-energy goals. That group is scheduled to be formed by January 2021, an action plan to be submitted to the public by August 2021 and approval of the plan by city governments and the county by January 2022, according to the resolution.