In March of 2019, Idaho Power Company (IPC) announced it will officially have 100% renewable energy by 2045. This initiative was an independent, voluntary decision of the company and is separated from any government regulations or state mandates, making it the first of its kind in the United States.
IPC is currently operating at approximately 70% clean energy from hydroelectric, solar, wind and several other renewable sources. IPC is part owner of three coal plants located in Oregon, Nevada, and Wyoming. Only 17.5% of the IPC portfolio is comprised of coal energy from these plants, a stark comparison to the approximate 80% of non-renewable energy consumed by the United States as a whole.
Kat Davis, the sustainability coordinator at Boise State, explained that the recent push for clean energy is more than just an ethical decision.
“Fossil fuels are becoming more expensive and people are realizing that (it’s) not a good long-term solution,” Davis said. “And with the carbon emissions they produce, there is just a better way to do this.”
IPC’s clean energy initiative is largely focused on removing its interests from coal facilities and implementing newer technologies, which could include making plans for modular nuclear reactors or carbon capture processes, to decarbonize its utilities completely within the next 25 years.
However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects it will only be 11 more years until the environmentally damaging effects of climate change are irreversible. Therefore, many local activists are calling on IPC to shorten their timeline in accordance with this prediction.
Liam Neupert, the 17-year-old environmental justice activist who led the youth climate strikes in Boise, explained that Idaho is doing much more than other states, but “much more” is not enough.
“We have 10 years to address this issue,” Neupert said. “So, we need to make sure that we’re constantly pushing for more. 2045 does not work.”
Neupert and other activists are hoping to sway IPC to change their deadline to match the goal set by the Boise City Council. The Boise city community is planning to reach 100% clean electricity by 2035 as part of the Boise’s Energy Future initiative.
However, Adam Richins, chief operating officer at IPC, believes there is more to consider than just the environmental aspect of our energy consumption.
“I call it the three C’s,” Richins said. “It’s having cost-effective energy, clean energy, and it’s having a solid customer experience for our customers.”
Richins explained that IPC highly values all three of these concepts and does its best to balance them as effectively as possible.
“It’s interesting because we took some surveys of our customers throughout our service territories,” Richins said. “We asked them the question, ‘Do you want us to go 100% clean?’ And 89.7% of people said ‘yes.’”
Richins went on to explain how their customers reacted to the same issue, but from a financial viewpoint.
“Then we asked the next question which was: ‘Would you have that same answer if your rates were to go up 5%?’ And that 90% went down to 27%,” Richins said.
This notorious battle between environment and economy has recently heightened political tensions and brought more public awareness to the matter, but Neupert believes the issue demands much more involvement.
“By (2045), the global climate crisis will be far beyond what we can even handle,” Neupert said. “We will see the damages and it will be so far irreversible. (IPC) is making the biggest impact, so it’s important to put pressure on them.”
Richins reiterated that IPC chose 2045 based off of realistic statistics obtained from its calculations of future prospects.
“It’s hard to say what the future is going to look like. We are open to moving it earlier, (but) our analysis just doesn’t show that we could do it affordably or reliably by 2035,” Richins said.
IPC remains firm in their proposed date and hopes the current satisfaction of their customers will continue, despite the pressure from environmental justice groups.
“At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the lights turn on when people flip the switch,” Richins said.