TWIN FALLS — Idaho Power Co. made two major announcements on Tuesday that reflect a movement toward clean energy.
First, the company has reached an agreement and will seek state approval to buy up to 120 megawatts of solar power from a solar project south of Twin Falls. The utility also says its long-term goal is to provide 100-percent clean energy by 2045. That means that all of its energy would come from hydro, solar, geothermal, wind and biomass production sources.
To meet that goal, Idaho Power is planning more investments into clean energy sources — starting with the solar project near the Nevada border.
“We believe this goal is attainable,” Idaho Power President and CEO Darrel Anderson said in a statement. “We have a great head start, thanks to our clean hydropower plants that produce almost half the energy our customers use. Our recently signed agreement with Jackpot Holdings moves us even closer.”
The 20-year agreement with Jackpot Holdings will be sent to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission for review. If the commission approves, Idaho Power says it will purchase local solar energy at a price that’s among the lowest on record. Initially, the company would pay $21.75 per megawatt-hour; less than 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Idaho Power would also have the opportunity to buy the facility or obtain energy from a proposed expansion at a slightly higher price.
The 120-megawatt solar array is set to be completed by 2022. Its unique location made it an attractive deal to Idaho Power because once built, it will connect to an existing transmission line that currently delivers energy from the North Valmy coal-fired plant. The company says the Jackpot Holdings solar energy will help replace the energy from that Nevada plant, where Idaho Power has recently agreed to end operations by 2025.
“Today’s announcement reflects Idaho Power’s commitment to resources that balance environmental stewardship with affordability and reliability,” Anderson said. “This deal will provide energy that is not only clean, but is also at a cost that benefits our customers.”
This is the next of many steps to meet the company’s new “Clean Today, Cleaner Tomorrow” effort. To achieve the goal, Idaho Power to continue its path away from coal by investing in grid upgrades, battery-storage technology and additional clean generation sources like wind and solar. These resources are becoming more affordable, the company says.
“This plan demonstrates Idaho Power’s commitment to doing what’s right for customers’ pocketbooks and the environment,” Idaho Gov. Brad Little said in a statement. “It also shows innovation can improve our lives with solutions that are reasonably priced, responsible and delivered without government intrusion.”
Idaho Power has striven to reduce its carbon emissions since 2009. The company has reduced its carbon emissions intensity — measured in pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt-hour — by almost 50 percent since 2005. Furthermore, Idaho Power has already entered agreements to end participation in two coal plants and is exploring exiting its third and final coal plant in Wyoming.
Idaho Power operates 17 hydroelectric facilities and already buys a significant amount of energy generated by wind and solar resources. The company says it sells renewable energy credits attached to this energy to benefit the customer.
Boise Mayor David Bieter praised Idaho Power’s new goal and its alignment with a similar goal the City of Boise is developing. The Boise City Council is scheduled to have a hearing April 2 for adopting a goal of 100-percent citywide renewable electricity by 2040.
Idaho Power’s “Clean Today, Cleaner Tomorrow” strategy will require strong partnerships with utilities, customers, local governments and regulators.
“This is an ambitious goal that illustrates Idaho Power’s commitment to the future of the communities they serve,” Bieter said in a statement. “It’s exciting to think about what we might achieve together by working toward a common goal of 100 percent clean electricity.”
Idaho Power is headquartered in Boise and has been locally operated since 1916. The company serves nearly 560,000 customers throughout a 24,000-square-mile area in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon.
“Kudos to Idaho Power for looking seriously towards the future and what’s best for our state,” Zack Waterman, director of the Idaho chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “Moving away from fossil fuels is not only necessary to protect our climate and quality of life, but it’s also an enormous economic opportunity for the Gem State.
“Rather than continue to send billions of our energy dollars to out-of-state coal plants and fracked gas wells each year, this plan can tap into Idaho’s tremendous clean energy resources, grow our local economy, and provide clean electricity to markets that are increasingly demanding it,” Waterman said.