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A New Chance for Idaho’s “Clean” Energy Plan

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The state is about to take its third stab at energy planning, which will be the first since federal adoption of the Obama Clean Power Plan. This process could give Idaho a comprehensive energy plan and a chance to join other Western states that have already adopted forward-looking clean-energy policies.

So all eyes are on the next steps taken by the Office of Energy Resources and its Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance. The agency will meet with interested parties from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 8 in Idaho Falls. This is a day before the two-day Intermountain Energy Summit,.

It’s been four years since the state updated the Idaho Energy Plan. But don’t expect a deep dive into solar power, nuclear power, electric vehicles, climate change, or other things the Idaho Legislature prefers to avoid. Instead, look more for modest updates on state energy statistics and other important data.

So now we’re into Round 3. Idaho’s OER and its ISEA will meet from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 8 in Idaho Falls, a day before the two-day Intermountain Energy Summit, also in Idaho Falls. OER made the meeting agenda available Wednesday, and here’s a quick look:

Date: Monday, Aug. 8

Time: 1 p.m. top 5 p.m.

Location: Energy Innovation Laboratory, ILE, Room # A-102), 775 University Blvd., Idaho Falls, ID 83401

Meeting Agenda: 

  • 1 p.m.: Welcome/Introductions
  • 1:10: Approval of Board meeting notes
  • 1:20: Presentation on small modular nuclear reactors
  • 1:50: Discussion on multi-state “independent system operator” grid issues
  • 2:35: ISEA task forces
  • 2:45: Review updated Chapter 2 of the Idaho Energy Plan (Idaho’s Energy Status)
  • 4:00: Assignments for updating Chapters 3 (Idaho’s Future Energy Supply), 4 (Energy & Economic Development in Idaho), and 5 (Energy Outreach and Education) of the Idaho Energy Plan
  • 4:30: Public comments

The process has a history of excluding the public and favoring industry. In 2012, Idaho’s gas and electric utilities were granted veto authority over recommendations. The public was all but left out of the process as the Idaho Energy Plan was re-written by the utilities and state agencies.

From our perspective, the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan process worked well. The plan was guided by a respected independent energy consultant,  Energy + Enviornmental Economics, and was well received by the Legislature. It veered off the tracks in 2011-2012, when the Legislature chose to save money by assigning the update to OER and the ISEA which at the time was dominated by gas, electric, and other utilities.

The utility-approved 2012 Idaho Energy Plan that resulted was broadly panned as watered-down and lacking vision, ignoring the largest energy challenge facing Idaho and the nation – climate change. (See chapter beginning on P. 75). It also stripped out any mandates or directions to guide Idaho’s energy strategy.

Even lawmakers deeply involved in the process acknowledged it was mishandled. Groups such as the Snake River Alliance were excluded from the process, but utilities were given a blank check regarding their commitment to coal-fired power generation.

Unfortunately, lawmakers neglected to even address the need to update the energy plan during their 2016 session. The Legislature either chose not to or just forgot to assign OER or anyone else the task of updating the state’s Energy Plan. Until just recently and through an informal exchange of emails, that is. And now OER and its ISEA Board of Directors will take it up on Aug. 8 in Idaho Falls.

We appreciate OER’s providing us a preview of the agenda for the Aug. 8 meeting, and we’ll do our best to keep you informed on how that meeting unfolds, and just as important who is writing Your Idaho Energy Plan!

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