Letters from the West

Idaho has easy time meeting EPA carbon rule but ratepayers may see hikes

The EPA carbon emissions rule released Monday by the Obama Administration requires little reduction in emissions from Idaho but electric customers could still face rising costs from power plants in surrounding states.

Idaho has no coal-fired power plants within its borders but its utilities -- Idaho Power Co. and Rocky Mountain Power in eastern Idaho get significant portions -- 40 percent-- of their electric generation from coal plants in Wyoming and Nevada. If those plants close early the utilities will be allowed to recover their full investments by charging their customers.

EPA allows states to work out regional agreements but Idaho's own carbon reduction goal is small, tied to natural gas plants in New Plymouth, Rathdrum and Mountain Home. It must reduce its rate of carbon dioxide for each megawatt-hour of electricity generated from 858 pounds in 2012 to 832 pounds by 2022 and eventually 771 pounds in 2030.

Idaho can meet EPA’s goal by increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency, which the state has already done. The White House said in a fact sheet Idaho has increased renewable energy generation by more than fourfold since 2008 generating enough energy to power more than 216,000 homes

“There’s no question there will be costs in accelerating the retirement of coal plants nationwide,” said Ken Miller, Snake River Alliance energy program director. “But for Idaho, those costs will be more than offset through reduced electricity bills and the addition of new jobs and economic activity as Idaho stops exporting our energy dollars to other states in exchange for a new clean energy economy with expanded renewable energy and energy conservation investments.”