Clean energy groups: Idaho needs community-owned solar projects

PROMO Energy - Solar Panels Wind Turbines Sky Clouds. iStock - hrul
Published Friday, May 6, 2022
by Eric Tegethoff

(Northern Rockies News Service) Clean energy advocates are calling on Idaho Power to go further with its energy plans, pushing for community ownership of renewable energy sources. 

The utility company has proposed expanding its renewable-energy options with its "Clean Energy Your Way" program. It includes an option to subscribe for energy from solar panels owned by the utility. 

Ava Traverso is energy program manager for the Snake River Alliance. She said the program is a great start, but said she believes the public could benefit even more from community-owned solar.

"Instead of allowing Idaho Power to almost further this energy monopoly that it has in Idaho right now," said Traverso, "it would allow the communities to take back control over where they want their energy to come from and these solar panels would be located directly in the communities that are receiving energy from them."

Traverso said community-owned solar would open the energy source up to people who can't afford solar panels, as well as renters. She said it also would be important for communities of color, which have historically borne the brunt of energy costs. 

Idaho Power has submitted its "Clean Energy Your Way" program to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission for review and the public can comment on it through May 12.

Kathy Noble is a farm owner in Blaine County and member of the Climate Action Coalition of the Wood River Valley. She said climate change is affecting the valley, reducing snowpack and its source of water, and there's an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions. 

She said there are a lot of small farmers who struggle to make ends meet, and installing solar for the community on their land would be a win-win.

"Why not give them the opportunity to make more money," said Noble, "make a double income on that farm ground by being able to not only make money on the power they supply but to make money by grazing or growing product underneath those solar panels?"

A group of organizations, including Snake River Alliance and Climate Action Coalition of the Wood River Valley, have launched a petition calling for community-owned solar from Idaho Power.

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