Not much has changed since Thomas Edison and Sam Insull devised the traditional electric utility in the early 1900s. Back then, allocating specific service territories to electric companies made sense. these companies could borrow money to build the power system cheaply because banks knew customers had no utility options.
A Lot Has Changed Since Then
Today individuals and businesses can build their own clean energy options instead of relying totally on the power company. Plus, our electric system is now highly interconnected across the West.
Now We Need Policy to Align with this New Reality
Today we need access to energy markets where clean energy generators can sell and utilities can buy energy based on demand and price. Utilities traditionally guess how many power plants to build and how much they cost to operate. These guesses are often wrong. Instead, energy markets enable competition for the best prices and products. And now we are seeing clean energy markets evolve across the West.
California has an open market and is working with regional utilities-like PacifiCorp and NVEnergy-to draw in more participants. Idaho Power plans to join a smaller marketplace in 2018. With an effective clean energy market, Idaho could sell some of our vast geothermal, solar and wind energy to our neighbors, reducing air pollution in the region while reinvesting energy dollars in Idaho.
ICL Is Working on Clean Energy Markets
That’s right, ICL is focusing our attention on these two primary goals:
- Expanding clean energy markets here and across the region-Expanding transmission lines may be necessary to create these markets. They are like the highways that connect buyers and sellers. We are monitoring the Boardman to Hemingway and Gateway West proposals to ensure that they enable clean energy without harming wildlife.
- Ensuring that state policy supports joining regional energy markets-As the first mover, California administers the largest market in the West, the California Independent System Operator. We are monitoring proposals to restructure this entity to including more western states and public interest advocates. Our goal is to ensure a voice for public values like clean air and wildlife on the body that administers the clean energy marketplace.
ICL will continue to protect Idaho’s air quality and wildlife by replacing dirty fossil fuels with clean energy. Creating vibrant energy markets is an important step in accomplishing that goal-all while keeping energy affordable. Over the next few years, we can expect rapid change in the hundred-year-old electric utility. It’s about time!