More than a hundred people attended Idaho Energy Freedom’s second annual Education Day at the Capitol on Jan. 23. With more than a dozen organizations tabling, including diverse nonprofits and renewable energy companies, members of the public and lawmakers interested in learning more about Idaho’s growing clean energy economy and opportunities were able to learn and connect with one another to chart a more sustainable and prosperous future in the Gem State.
At noon, there was a short presentation with IEF’s chairman and longtime energy attorney Peter Richardson and IEF advisory council member Linda Engle, a former professor and climate advocate from South East Idaho who leads the Sustainable Idaho podcast.
“We all want clean air and clean water,” Engle said in her remarks. “We all want to protect our communities; we want to conserve and preserve what we have for the next generation, our children and their children. We want our Idaho businesses, ranchers, farmers, and dairies to thrive. We all want safe and reliable electricity.”
Engle addressed some of the myths about renewable energy, including that it is too expensive and the technology is not yet ready. She said the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that solar and wind are now the cheapest forms of new electricity generation.
“Over the last 10 years the costs of solar power have fallen 90% and wind power costs have fallen 60%,” Engle said.
Engle shared a story about a fourth generation farmer, in the Genesee area near Lewiston, who grows wheat, malt barley, garbanzo beans and canola. His family wants to install wind and solar on their 1,500 acres to power their operations and hopefully contribute to the grid, while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Engle called on Idaho lawmakers to work with farmers and ranchers like him to benefit rural communities’ economies.
She shared findings from a National Renewable Energy Lab study that reported that if Idaho constructs 7,000 MW of renewable energy over the next 10 years, local and county governments would receive $93 million in new tax revenue, including:
- Rural landowners would receive additional land lease payments of nearly $38 million.
- Annual wages for jobs in construction, operations & maintenance would be about $59 million.
- There would be a combined $190 million boost to Idaho’s rural economy while helping our power company providers reach their clean energy goals.
Many legislators attended, including Rep. Nate Roberts, Rep. Clay Handy, Rep. Marco Erickson, Rep. Jack Nelsen, Rep. Steve Miller, and Rep. John Gannon. Secretary of State Phil McGrane also made a brief appearance, in addition to members of Governor Brad Little’s administration.
Most of the four-hour event was simply a chance to mix and mingle, helping strengthen relationships between geothermal, wind, solar and hydro producers as well as conservation nonprofits like Conservation Voters for Idaho and Citizens Climate Lobby. Associate Professor Eli Bowles, an IEF advisory council member, brought some of his students from the College of Southern Idaho’s renewable energy program. The program boasts nearly a 100% job placement rate.
“It’s a great chance for our students to connect with potential employers and meet others in this growing industry,” said Bowles. “It builds their confidence and their networks as they continue their education in this important area.”