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Article by Maria Willacy

Photography by Special to Boise Lifestyle

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

What will the Treasure Valley look like 50 years from now? 100? While we can’t predict everything about the future, we can certainly perform actions today that will impact tomorrow. That’s why businesses, cities, residents and our local power company are taking a serious look at sustainability and what they can do to preserve our valley as the home we love. 

Idaho Power defines sustainability as “sound and enduring financial, environmental and social stewardship and governance, companywide and in the community.” Simply put, it’s like a four-legged chair that can only stand and support the seat when all legs work together. But for companies like Idaho Power, it’s more than just good business sense. “Our company demands it, our customers expect it and our stakeholders insist on it,” said John Bernardo, Idaho Power’s Sustainability Program Manager for the last 10 years.

In support of a sustainable future, in March 2019 Idaho Power announced a goal to provide 100% clean energy by 2045. Shortly after, in April 2019, the City of Boise announced its own goal toward 100% clean energy.

“While almost half of Idaho Power’s energy comes from affordable, clean hydropower, the company’s goal helps ensure a realistic path forward for tomorrow,” said Bernardo. “And Idaho Power’s clean energy mix is a great starting point for the city’s goal. We’re glad to explore this goal with the city while remaining committed to fair prices and reliability for all customers.”

Most recently, Idaho Power took a huge step forward in advancing its energy goal by ending participation in half of the North Valmy Coal Plant at the end of 2019. Goals like these by Treasure Valley businesses and cities are the impetus for many sustainable efforts that will drive the valley forward.

Rethinking Community Events

The valley’s community events are its heartbeat — bringing us together and rooting us in common celebration. They promote a long-lasting future for valley residents by encouraging culture, healthy living, and social stewardship. Recently, event organizers have started to focus on how the events themselves can promote a lasting impact while preserving our resources. One such event is Treefort — a festival of music and other arts that draws thousands to downtown Boise each spring.

In 2019, Treefort partnered with Idaho Power to participate in the Green Power Program. Using the Green Power Program, Idaho Power customers can purchase certified clean energy for as little as $1 per 100-kilowatt-hours. An added benefit — the program funds Solar 4R Schools, a program that educates students about renewable energy.

“It’s really important to us because it fits into the whole environmental picture of who we want to be and the sustainability that we want to work towards,” commented David Broderick, Treefort Sustainability Director, during the 2019 festival. “It makes me feel wonderful and it makes me feel like this is so achievable.” 

Traveling a Cleaner Way

It’s no surprise that recent growth in the valley has increased traffic, requiring new and innovative ways of looking at transportation. With the increased traffic comes increased emissions and concern for air quality. That’s one reason why Idaho Power proudly supports electric vehicles (EV) and monitors advancements in EV and charging station technology, staying aware of opportunities to improve EV infrastructure.

In addition to its own fleet of cost-effective, environmentally friendly EVs (producing no or low tailpipe emissions), Idaho Power encourages businesses to add charging stations by providing EV incentives. The newest fast-charging station added in the valley was installed at the Walmart off Overland in Boise, making interstate travel across the region even easier. And new stations are being added across the state all the time. Perhaps the best part for businesses and residents interested in purchasing an EV? EVs cost one-third to one-half the cost to “fuel” compared to gas-powered vehicles.

The City of Meridian Parks and Recreation Department has been keeping city parks green with the help of a utility EV. Known fondly as the egg, the EV is used by volunteers who travel throughout Meridian parks educating visitors, answering questions and ensuring safe enjoyment of the community green spaces. The egg is quiet, travels at low speeds, provides protection from the elements and can be operated by volunteers of all abilities. In partnership with Meridian Parks and Recreation Volunteer Coordinator Barbara Hatch, Idaho Power recently donated new batteries to keep the egg running for years to come.

Using Energy Wisely

More efficient electric technology isn’t just about EVs — businesses all over the valley are finding ways to be more sustainable by examining the products and services they use for more energy-efficient solutions. In 2018, overall savings from Idaho Power’s energy efficiency programs were significant — saving 183,378 megawatt-hours (MWh). This is enough energy to power more than 16,000 average-sized homes.

The valley’s newest YMCA facility — the South Meridian YMCA —was built using Idaho Power incentives and energy-efficient measures that will result in significant cost savings and a wiser use of energy. “Being a responsible citizen and part of the community is really important to us,” said David Duro, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Treasure Valley YMCA, shortly after the facility opened. “I think Idaho Power is doing that for the right reasons too — to be good with our natural resources.”

Being good with natural resources — a key component to sustainability — extends into many areas of what makes the valley tick. Idaho Power Senior Engineer Chellie Jensen set up Idaho Power’s first Water and Wastewater Cohort program to help cities and plant operators make energy-efficient facility and behavioral changes, and to learn from one another. Chellie specializes in helping city governments manage the efficiency of their water conveyance and wastewater treatment plants. “I love and believe in what I do,” said Chellie. “I see results, and I see people’s lives change when the energy-savings light bulb clicks for them. They are winning regional and national awards with their efforts.”

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about Idaho Power’s sustainability efforts and partnerships throughout the valley, keep an eye out for their annual sustainability report, published next month.