Historic Wins for Clean Energy in Idaho

In the past week the City of Boise became Idaho's first city to commit to 100% clean energy; and our state's largest utility, Idaho Power, announced plans to be 100% clean by 2045.

Grassroots advocacy and growing customer demand for 100 percent clean energy in Idaho has completely changed the climate and energy conversation in one of the most conservative states in the nation.

Sierra Club's climate efforts in Idaho begain in 2006 with successful efforts to encourage Boise to sign on the Mayor’s Clean City agreement. In May of 2016, we launched our Ready for 100% Boise campaign. A the time, Idaho Chapter staff and volunteer leaders sat down with Mayor Bieter and other city leaders to pitch the idea of setting a 100 percent citywide energy goal. The Mayor and others indicated that they were interested in the concept but did not want such a commitment to “just be words on paper”. After all, the Mayor pointed out, “We don’t control our electric utility company”.

Over the next couple of years, the Idaho Chapter engaged in a sustained grassroots advocacy campaign and got over 3,000 Boiseans to take action, engaged dozens of businesses, and many faith community leaders to ask the City to craft a community-wide renewable energy plan. We also started the Idaho Climate Justice League, whose student organizers were a key part of pushing the City along. Chapter staff and volunteer leaders talked with over 10,000 Idahoans about our campaign, turned out folks to Idaho Power’s shareholders meetings calling for the company to begin a process of decarbonizing, and got community leaders to continue to lean on the city and utility.

In July 2018, students with the Climate Justice League joined the Idaho Sierra Club in delivering over 1300 postcards to Councilmember Lauren McLean in support of 100 percent clean energy for the city.

In August 2018, the Ready for 100 Campaign partnered with Seventh Generation and Mic.com to produce a video featuring Climate Justice League organizer, Emily Her, and amplifying the incredible organizing work of the Boise team to bring the city on board.  

The City responded to these advocacy efforts and crafted a comprehensive community wide renewable energy plan. In February of 2019, the City released their draft energy plan which set a community-wide 100 percent target for 2040. Remarkably, the state’s largest utility, Idaho Power, responded by announcing plans to be 100 percent clean electricity by 2045 in March. On April 2nd, the City of Boise formally adopted a citywide renewable energy goal, advancing the date from 2040 to 2035, as well as adopting a guiding principle that implementation must prioritize high energy burden customers and issues of equity.

In just a matter of years, sustained grassroots activism and a growing drumbeat for clean energy have helped change the climate and energy conversation in Idaho. As the Idaho Mountain Express wrote in an April 2019 Ed Board piece, “Grassroots politics and economics are beginning to converge to put the nation on a path to clean energy…(Idaho Power’s) announcement was remarkable from a company known for throwing up pricing roadblocks to wind- and solar-power generators and using the phrases ‘the wind doesn’t always blow’ and ‘the sun doesn’t always shine’ as standard public-relations fare...Evidently, public pressure, individual actions and irresistible economics are more powerful than White House bluster about bringing back coal power along with polluted air and climate change.”

When making the commitment, Idaho Power’s CEO, Darrel Anderson, stated “Providing 100-percent clean energy is an important goal for Idaho Power. More and more customers are telling us it is important to them, too.” Other community leaders, including Idaho’s Republican governor, cheered the decision: “This plan demonstrates Idaho Power’s commitment to doing what’s right for customers’ pocketbooks and the environment,” Idaho Gov. Brad Little said.

Idaho is a case study that shows growing customer demand can move markets even in red states without clean energy regulatory mandates.

A huge thanks to the folks who helped make this happen: Casey Mattoon and our Idaho Chapter volunteers, who led the effort with great patience, power and persistence; to our coalition partners (Conservation Voters for Idaho and Idaho Conservation League); Boise City Council President, Lauren McLean, for leading the city's 100% clean energy efforts, alongside city staff; and to our Idaho members and donors for making this work possible. 

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Blog by Mary Anne Hitt and Jodie Van Horn https://www.sierraclub.org/articles/2019/04/face-climate-change-cities-and-states-continue-lead-clean-energy
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Boise City Council president, Lauren McLean, accepts 1,300 petitions collected by the Idaho Climate Justice League students.