BOISE — The City of Trees might get a lot greener in the next couple of decades.
After first floating the idea at the end of 2018, Boise City Council has decided to vote next month on setting a goal of having the entire city powered by renewable energy by 2040. Even though the goal is ambitious, city officials say it’s attainable by using energy efficiency and existing renewable resources, along with advocating for new sources of energy.
The draft plan laying out how the city is going to tackle the problem is available on the city’s website and will be open for public comment during the regular council meeting on April 2.
Even though Idaho Power runs the electric grid and is essential to making this goal happen, the city’s plan outlines ways Boise will push for clean energy and support Idaho Power in taking steps in that direction. This includes publicizing the retirement of coal-fired power sources, educating the public on energy efficiency and studying solutions to make renewable energy more affordable.
“The intent was to have the city showing leadership and that we’re walking the walk,” Public Works Director Steve Burgos said in November. “We want to set these goals to show that these things are possible. And by us kind of dipping our toe in the water first and setting our municipal goal, we hope it will reveal things internally that we’re going to try that we can scale up and use citywide.”
The goal of the entire city being powered without fossil fuels in a little over 20 years is not Boise’s only sustainability effort. In his September State of the City address, Mayor Dave Bieter said the city is working toward having all city buildings be powered by renewables by 2030 and have new buildings produce as much electricity as they consume by the same year.
Roughly a quarter of the entirety of Boise’s energy consumption, including electricity, geothermal power and natural gas, comes from hydroelectricity, plus there’s wind and solar in the area, as well. Hydroelectricity is considered renewable by the federal government, but it has been criticized for its impact on wildlife, soil erosion and waterways.
Adam Richins, Idaho Power’s vice president of customer operations and business development, told the Idaho Press in November that the company is supportive of exploring the city’s energy goals, but he stressed that it must be practical.
“Our prices are between 20 and 30 percent below the national average, and our reliability, at least in Idaho, is we keep the power on 99.7 percent of the time,” he said previously. “So anything we look at really has to keep those two issues in mind to make sure it’s not only good for the environment but something that’s practical for ratepayers, as well.”
According to the Boise’s Energy Future report, 65 percent of all greenhouse gases produced in Boise in 2015 came from residential and business use. Energy consumption in these two areas are the main focus of Boise’s Energy Future, so officials hope turning as much of that to renewable energy as possible will make a large impact on the city’s carbon footprint.
Boise residents, businesses and institutions spend roughly $245 million a year total on energy. City officials estimate that if changes aren’t made, energy costs could balloon to $580 million by 2040, but if the efficiency changes are implemented, it could bring a savings of up to $210 million to the overall community.
“I’ve advocated for a plan to get us to 100 percent renewable electricity because it’s our responsibility to be planning for the future and making decisions that will protect our residents’ pocketbooks, homes, jobs and overall quality of life,” City Council President Lauren McLean said in a press release. “This renewable energy plan brought together energy providers, clean energy advocates and citizens around a shared goal of charting a clean energy future for Boise.”