Idaho environmental advocates are bristling at a study, released Thursday by Idaho Power, that says keeping coal-fired power plants in the utility's "long-range plan is economically preferable to other options."
The study, co-authored by analysts from Idaho Power and a third-party contractor, said that despite demands for stricter environmental controls, the utility concluded that coal burning is “economically preferred,” and they will continue using it as an energy source.
“They’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on old coal plants in Nevada and Wyoming,” Ben Otto, energy associate at the Idaho Conservation League, told Boise Weekly. “We can invest in cleaner resources.”
Among the nation’s 100 largest energy producers, Idaho Power ranks 37th in carbon dioxide emissions. Serving more than 500,000 customers throughout southern Idaho and eastern Oregon, Idaho Power officials said they would save its customers "over $1 billion when compared to the cost of converting each of its coal-powered units over to natural gas."
“A real study would look at a package of resources,” said Otto. "There’s a broad array of resources that would meet Idaho’s power needs.”
In particular, Otto pointed to geothermal resources or solar power instead of the fossil fuels and natural gases cited in Idaho Power's analysis.
On average, approximately 42 percent of the electricity provided annually to Idaho Power customers is coal-generated. The Jim Bridger plant near Rock Springs, Wyo., and the North Valmy Generating Station near Battle Mountain, Nev.—both coal-fired plants—are included in Idaho Power’s resource portfolio.
“The big concern is air quality,” said Otto, adding that Idaho Power's use of fossil fuels continues to threaten "the future of our climate.”