The city of Boise and towns in Blaine County are taking the lead on establishing renewable energy policies in Idaho, experts said at a policy forum held Wednesday on the College of Idaho campus in Caldwell.
Unlike neighboring states such as Washington, Oregon and Montana, Idaho has no renewable energy goals set by the Legislature. While some clean energy goals are coming from the private sector, such as Idaho Power – which has established goals to transition to a clean energy grid by 2045 – Boise and Blaine County cities have also established their own goals.
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In 2019, the Boise City Council unanimously adopted a goal to run homes, businesses on clean electricity by 2035, the Idaho Statesman previously reported. Likewise, the City of Trees has a goal to increase natural gas efficiency and expand geothermal energy.
The goals are part of an initiative called “Boise’s Energy Future,” which focuses on achieving clean electricity and efficiency actions for the entire city.
Similar to Boise, in 2022, Blaine County elected officials voted to adopt a resolution to establish goals to achieve 100% clean energy for municipal energy use by 2030, and provide 100% clean electricity for the Blaine County community by 2035.
At the forum, held by the College of Idaho and the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, clean energy proponents from the grassroots, public and private sectors spoke on the future of green energy in Idaho.
The forum, which touched on policies including renewable energy, school vouchers and open primaries, took place at Langroise Recital Hall at the College of Idaho campus in Caldwell.
The renewable energy panel was moderated by Conservation Voters for Idaho program director Ryan McGoldrick, and it featured Idaho Sierra Club director, Lisa Young; city of Boise public works director, Steve Burgos; and Geothermal Rising executive director, Bryant Jones.
Clean energy experts, advocates call for clean energy policies in Idaho
Burgos, who oversees the operation of the city’s utilities, said that the city of Boise is committed to fulfilling its clean energy goals before asking the community to follow its steps, adding that the city is committed to creating a more sustainable grid.
“We’ve got to get moving,” he said. “What we’re doing today is not sustainable. We need to make changes, and there’s incredible opportunity in those changes.”
Burgos acknowledged that clean energy goals are ambitious, but he said the country has fulfilled ambitious environmental goals before – referencing the Clean Water Act which established wastewater standards to regulate water pollution in the U.S.
“We can do big things, but we have to get moving,“ Burgos said. ”Human ingenuity is a powerful thing. We’ve overcome problems. We can combat and draw down the climate crisis, but we need policy makers to make those policies.”
Jones, who leads a national nonprofit that advocates for geothermal energy usage, said he challenges Idaho policy makers, including those present at the forum, to start looking at establishing clean energy goals.
“Idaho has a lot to benefit from if policy makers put the right policies in place,” he said. “If the state doesn’t start taking this clean energy transformation seriously, we’re going to be left behind.”