While the political rhetoric continues, Idahoans are focused on the facts and preparing to close coal power plants. In 2015 ICL established that closing Idaho Power’s North Valmy coal plant not only reduced carbon pollution, it saved Idahoans money in the long run.

Since then, I was concerned if the changing federal politics would change this dollars and cents-based decision. With the rhetoric from the White House about bringing back coal, I was nervous. Turns out that just as a smokestack spews hot air, so does President Trump. Regardless of rhetoric, for Idaho clean energy still just makes sense.

How do I know? Well, my job is to dive deep into the plans our power companies make for the future. These plans begin with an honest accounting of the rising costs of coal power. Along with important safeguards for air quality, just the cost to mining coal is rising rapidly. On the other hand,  the cost of clean energy continues to plummet.

A couple other factors are driving coal power out of the market. As Idahoans continue to save energy by switching lightbulbs at home and pumps in factories, we don’t need a bunch of additional fossil fueled power plants. Meanwhile increasingly variable river flows and rising amounts of wind and solar require a more flexible electric grid to keep things in balance. Today, instead of big, cumbersome fossil fuels, our system needs small, flexible, and local power plants that can respond to customer demands.

What does this mean on the ground? As I write,  ICL is deeply engaged in finding an end game for coal power. Building on our work in 2015 on the Valmy coal plant, now Idaho Power proposes closing half in 2019 and half in 2025-decades earlier than planned just a few years ago. We agree with this timeline and are finding a way to pay for this investment in a clean future.

Now we are turning our focus to the Jim Bridger coal plant in Wyoming and the Colstrip plant in Montana, both of which serve Idahoans. Based on the initial analysis by Idaho Power, it appears that closing half of Bridger in the mid to late 2020’s is a viable path forward. The Colstrip plant is collapsing upon itself as the plant owner faces imminent bankruptcy.

This is no surprise really. Politicians may yearn for yesteryear, but individuals and businesses across the country are investing in clean energy. Even Walmart.