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Spring brings longer days and warmer weather, reminding all of us to get ready for summer. Summer is my favorite season-I love cooling off with a good swim on a sunny day.

But hot weather drives up energy demands and can lead to air pollution if we rely on fossil fuels. Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to enjoy summer while protecting the air we breathe.

An Ounce of Prevention

As Idahoans turn on their air conditioners, energy demands spike. Power companies often turn on gas plants to meet this need. With coal plants already running flat out, this summer energy spike leads to huge amounts of air pollution.

Today we have cleaner choices. The fastest, cheapest and simplest way that you can protect our air and climate is to reduce your energy demands. Consider these options during the summer:

  • Shade southfacing windows-Thick curtains or trees blocking out the sun can cut cooling needs by 50%!
  • Use the cool night air-Opening your windows at night means more comfortable sleeping and a cooler house to start the day.
  • Cool your lid-The sun on your roof can heat attics and crawlspaces to 150 degrees or more. So insulate your ceiling, install an attic fan, grow a big tree, or even install a white roof to beat the heat.
  • Use your thermostat-Cooling an empty house is wasteful. So set the thermostat to 78 ° and only run the AC when you’re home.

A Pound of Cure

Besides reducing our energy demand, we must also change our energy sources from fossil fuels. Today Idaho gets 40% to 60% of our electricity from fossil fuels, depending on river flows that generate hydropower. But we waste 20% to 30% of our energy through inefficient use. The tips above get us halfway to clean.

For the other half, we need to replace fossil fuels with clean energy sources. For Idaho, solar power is terrific because our energy demand spikes along with the sunshine. Today we see the first large-scale solar projects in Idaho being built near Kuna and American Falls. At ICL, we are protecting the policies and programs that enable rooftop solar as well.

In fact, this summer you will see ICL and others ramp up efforts to promote solar power for Idaho. If you have solar power already, tell us your story. Drop us a line with a picture of your system and why you went solar; you might get a special award!