Energy policy in Idaho

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Energy policy in Idaho
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Quick facts
Energy department:
Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy Resources
State population:
1.6 million
Per capita income:
Energy consumption
Total energy consumption:
526 trillion BTU[1][2]
Per capita energy consumption:
332 million BTU
Energy spending
Total state energy spending:
$6,586 million
Per capita energy spending:
Residential natural gas price:
$8.62 per thousand cubic feet
Residential electricity price:
9.93 cents per kWh
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Energy PolicyEnergy policy in the United StatesFracking in IdahoEnergy and environmental news

Energy policy in Idaho depends on geography, natural energy resources, how electricity is generated, how much energy consumers use, politics and the influence of groups such as environmental and industry organizations. Decisions by policymakers, such as state and local governments, utilities and regulatory agencies, affect all citizens economically and environmentally, and are generally geared toward providing reliable, affordable energy. The cost of energy affects not only home heating and electricity bills, and thus disposable income, but also economic growth, including jobs, investment and the cost of doing business in the state.

How energy is produced and consumed also has an impact on the environment and pollution. Energy policy in Idaho, and many other states, focuses on decreasing emissions and dependence on fossil fuels by increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. As the infrastructure for producing and delivering renewable energy sources is not as advanced as it is for energy generation from traditional sources, these policies often require subsidies to make the produced energy affordable, and their effects are difficult to measure.

Energy policy involves trade-offs between providing an affordable, consistent energy supply on the one hand, and limiting pollution and protecting the environment, on the other. How states attempt to balance these two differs between states, and often boils down to costs to consumers versus costs to the environment. This article provides general energy information about the state as the context within which energy policy is made, as well as information about major legislation and public and private groups that play a role in setting energy policy in the state.

See also: Energy policy in the United States for more information on energy policy.
See also: Fracking in Idaho

Energy overview

State facts

Below are quick facts about Idaho’s energy climate.


In Idaho

  • twice as much electricity is consumed over what is generated, so electricity is brought in by interstate power lines.
  • 80 percent of electricity generated in the state came from hydroelectric power in 2011.
  • about one-third of households use electricity as the primary energy source of home heating.
  • in 2011, 92 percent of net electric generation came from renewable energy resources, which is more than any other state.
  • geothermal energy is sufficient to generate electricity commercially throughout most of the state.
  • industry is the largest energy-consuming sector in the state.[3]

Available energy resources

Idaho has very limited traditional energy resources, including oil, coal, and natural gas. It does not produce or refine any petroleum. Exploration for petroleum began in 1903 but no commercial reserves have been discovered. Idaho imports its petroleum with two pipelines, one running west along the Snake River Valley from refineries in Utah and another north from refineries in Montana. Idaho does not currently produce commercial natural gas, but there are fields in the southwest being developed. Natural gas is imported into Idaho through several pipelines. Idaho has no coal mining and few estimated recoverable reserves.[3]

Idaho has many renewable energy resources, especially hydroelectric power plants, that supply roughly three-fourths of in-state production. Renewable resources constitute a larger share of energy production in Idaho than any other state. Because of the large amount of hydropower, Idaho has some of the lowest average electricity rates in the nation. Idaho also has substantial wind energy potential in the Snake River Valley and on the state's mountain ridges. Wind-generated electricity has quadrupled from 2010 to 2012.[3]

About one-third of Idaho households use electricity as their primary energy source for home heating. Most new generating capacity planned in the Northwest is natural gas-fired, but there are planned transmission projects that aim to connect the region's wind resources to the electricity grid. The Idaho National Laboratory, a federal nuclear power research center, is the site of the first nuclear electricity generation in the United States. The state has no nuclear power plants, but one has been proposed for Payette County in southwest Idaho.[3]

Consumption and prices

Energy consumption in Idaho
ID energy consumption chart.png

     Transportation       Residential     Industrial       Commercial
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As shown on the pie chart to the right in 2011 roughly one quarter of Idaho’s energy use was for transportation, and one quarter was used by the residential sector. Roughly one third was used in the industrial sector. The rest was used in the commercial sector. Most of the energy used in the state was in the form of hydroelectric power, followed by imported electricity, natural gas and then gasoline for transportation.[3] Generally the price of gasoline in the state tracks closely to the national average.[5][6] According to the EIA's February 2014 report, the federal excise tax is 18.40 cents/gallon of gasoline and 24.40 cents/gallon of diesel fuel. Idaho only has an excise tax on gasoline, which is 25 cents per gallon, putting it at 25th place in the nation.[7][8]

Comparisons tables

The table below compares Idaho’s consumption and spending for energy, as well as prices for gas and electricity and carbon emissions to those of Oregon, which has similar resources and consumption needs because of climate and geography. These two states are somewhat similar in population, overall consumption, and overall spending and their means of electrical production are very similar. Also given are the U.S. averages and the state rankings. All rankings are from highest to lowest, so, for example:

  • Idaho’s rank of 46th in carbon emissions means that carbon emissions are lower in Idaho than in Oregon, which has a ranking of 38th.
  • Per capita income in Idaho ranks 50th out of 50, meaning the state has the lowest per capita income, much lower than Oregon’s ranking of 34th.
  • Per capita energy consumption in Idaho, at 21st, is significantly higher than in Oregon, at 39th.
  • Per capita spending on energy in Idaho is significantly higher because it ranks 35th to Oregon’s ranking of 42nd.
  • This is somewhat surprising because natural gas prices are significantly lower in Idaho, but electricity prices are somewhat lower in Idaho which was ranked 47th price, compared to Oregon at highest 41st price. Just over half of Idaho households use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating. The residential and industrial sectors are Idaho's largest natural gas-consuming sectors.[3]
Consumption and Expenditures Comparisons Summary
Type IdahoOregonU.S. Figures
FigureU.S. Rank*FigureU.S. Rank*Totals
Population1.6 million393.9 million27313.9 million
Per Capita Income Average$33,74950$38,78634$42,693
Total Consumption526 trillion BTU421,014 trillion BTU3297,301 quadrillion BTU
Per Capita Energy Consumption332 million BTU21262 million BTU39312 million BTU
Total Spending on Energy$6,586 million42$14,941 million31$1,394,088 million
Per Capita Spending on Energy$4,15835$3,86342$4,474
Price of Residential Natural Gas, dollar per thousand cubic feet$8.2740$10.5526$12.48
Price of Electricity, cents per kWh9.544710.004112.31
Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions, million metric tons (2010)16.24640.3385,631
*Rank is from highest to lowest.

Almost 50 percent of home heating comes from natural gas. The following 35.4 percent of homes are heated using electricity, followed by fuel oil, LPG and other sources.

See also: State Energy Rankings to compare all 50 states
Consumption of energy for heating homes in Idaho
Source Idaho 2011 U.S. average 2011
Natural gas 50.6% 49.5%
Fuel oil 1.9% 6.5%
Electricity 33.0% 35.4%
Liquid Petroleum Gases (LPG) 5.0% 5%
Other/none 9.4% 3.6%

Production and transmission

Idaho produced 180.4 trillion BTU of energy in 2011. Of that, just over 4 percent came from biofuels. The remaining 96 percent came from what the U.S. Energy Information Administration classifies as 'other,' which is "assumed to equal consumption of all renewable energies except biofuels."[9]

Where electricity comes from in Idaho[10]
Type Amount generated (MWh) % of state** % of U.S.**
Other renewables 172.8 95.79% 0%
Total net electricity generation 180.4 100% 0%
**Note: Because the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) does not include all of a state's energy production in these figures, the EIA totals do not equal 100 percent. Instead, we have generated our own percentages.

Electricity produced and consumed in Idaho comes primarily from hydroelectric power and other renewables. Idaho gets a larger share of its net electricity generation from renewable resources than any other state. Roughly nine-tenths of its net electricity generation comes from these renewable energy resources. Biofuels constitute 7.6 trillion BTU of Idaho’s energy production. Other renewable energy constitutes 172.8 trillion BTU of Idaho’s energy production. There is no coal, natural gas, crude oil, or nuclear power production in Idaho.[3]

Petroleum is the leading energy source in Idaho, none of which is produced within the state. Consumption per capita is below the national median. Nearly four-fifths of petroleum is consumed in transportation, and most of the rest is used in the industrial sector. Idaho is one of the few states that allow the use of conventional motor gasoline statewide. Some ethanol comes from the Midwest, and Idaho has one operating ethanol plant in Burley.[3]

Natural gas is supplied mainly by interstate pipelines companies. These include Gas Transmission Northwest Pipeline Corp. and Northwest Pipeline Corp. Idaho receives its natural gas supply by pipeline from Canada and from other western states. One pipeline system enters Idaho at its northern border from British Columbia, crosses the panhandle, and continues to Washington, Oregon and California. The other system runs from Colorado to the Pacific Northwest and Canada. This pipeline can supply natural gas to Idaho either from Canada or from Wyoming and Colorado. About nine-tenths of the natural gas entering Idaho continues on to Nevada and the West Coast.[3]

In Idaho there are currently 24 public electric utilities. For natural gas, Idaho relies on two natural gas utilities to supply natural gas throughout the state. The Avista Corporation supplies natural gas to the northern part of the state, and Intermountain Gas supplies natural gas to the southern part of the state.[11][12]

Energy policy

Policy Issues

Idaho does not participate in the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that mandates a minimum amount of renewable energy (which is more expensive than coal or natural gas) be used for generating electricity.[13][14][15]Idaho has no RPS or other renewable requirements, but its three major electric utilities do offer net metering programs that take electricity from small wind, solar, biomass and other renewable sources. Commercial, residential and agricultural customers are eligible for net metering.[3][16]

See also: Fracking in Idaho

Energy policy is made, executed and influenced by many organizations, both public and private, and is codified in the laws and regulations of the state. Each state’s energy policy involves trade-offs in which energy production and prices are weighed against environmental concerns and efficiency. Idaho's investor-owned utilities administer energy efficiency programs with oversight from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC). In the past, Idaho has seen notable energy savings from efficiency programs, but recently spending on energy efficiency has diminished, leading to lower levels of savings. Energy efficiency programs are supported and supplemented by regional organizations, including the Bonneville Power Administration, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Idaho has not passed legislation requiring funding for energy efficiency programs.[17]

Idaho ranked 31st on the Energy Efficiency Scorecard produced by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Twenty states fell in the ranking this year, due to both changes in methodology and substantive changes in their performance. Idaho fell the furthest, by nine spots, largely because it did not keep up with peer states in utility efficiency spending and savings.[18]There are differing estimates about the economic impact of these mandates in terms of costs that may affect prices and jobs, as well as the impact on the environment and pollution. Thus, for example, there are many new studies of what is called the "rebound effect" which refers to the fact that "some of the theoretically estimated gains in energy efficiency will be eroded as consumers consume additional goods and services."[19][20]

Idaho has some of the cheapest electricity in the United States. The free-market Institute for Energy Research found that electricity prices in Idaho are especially low because of the state’s high use of hydropower, which is one of the cheapest sources of electricity. Idaho does not cap greenhouse gas emissions, does not observe the Western Climate Initiative, does not require gasoline to be mixed with renewable fuels, and does not have fuel economy standards that limit greenhouse gas emissions.[21]

Major legislation

  • The Geothermal Resources Act (1972), created a way for the Water Resource Board to adopt, amend, or rescind reasonable regulations and construction standards on wells that tap into geothermal resources. Persons who wish to construct a well for geothermal resources or whose wells may affect geothermal resources must obtain a permit from director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources in order to protect geothermal resources in Idaho from waste.[22]
  • The Idaho Environmental Protection and Health Act (1972) created the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which is in charge of overseeing air quality and water quality standards for the state. The DEQ has a direct impact on energy because it determines what rules and regulations will apply to different mode of energy production and energy use.[23]
  • The Idaho Land Remediation Act (1996) is meant to protect public health, welfare, safety and the environment. It is also meant to remediate or redevelopment sites based on risks to human health and the environment in places where hazardous substances or petroleum releases exist. For economic revitalization of property, this act is also meant to establish a voluntary program for the remediation of hazardous substance or petroleum contaminated sites, which will encourage cooperation between the state, local communities, and interested persons.[24]
  • The Reconstruction of Dams and Related Appurtenances-Hydroelectric Facilities Construction (1978) act allows irrigation districts to construct hydroelectric generating facilities, properties and related structures in connection with the reconstruction, modification, or improvement of a dam, a canal, or other irrigation district works. Irrigation districts may enter into all necessary contracts with the U.S. and its agencies, other irrigation districts, and other public and private persons/corporations to carry out the construction of any hydroelectric generating facilities.[25]
  • The Mineral Rights in State Lands law says all lands in the state with mineral deposits that are owned by the state are free and open to casual exploration. The board of land commissioners is authorized in its discretion to withdraw from entry and exploration specifically described tracts of state lands under its control and jurisdiction. The Board of Land Commissioners of the State of Idaho is authorized to make leases and collect royalties and other payments to the state of Idaho under mineral leases. These mineral rights include coal, oil, oil shale, and gas, among other minerals.[26]
  • The Idaho Liquefied Petroleum Gas Public Safety Act says that every dealer of liquefied petroleum gas must meet requirements of education, experience, and examination qualifications and be licensed in order to sell petroleum. In order to obtain a dealer’s license, all applicants must provide verification acceptable to the board of being at least 18 years old, good moral character and never have had a license revoked.[27]
  • Public Utility Regulation is Title 61 of the Idaho Statutes that contains laws regarding how public utilities are overseen and how they are run. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is created under this title. No public agencies directly or indirectly may acquire or have any interest in any public utility located in Idaho, which generates, transmits, distributes or supplies electric power. No electric public utility or electrical corporation may transfer directly or indirectly control without approval of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. Every public utility must make a report to the commission including all details that the commission decides it needs. Idaho is legally joined as part of the Pacific Northwest Electric Power and Conservation Planning Council.[28]

Energy policy ballot measures

Voting on Energy
Energy policy
Ballot Measures
By state
By year
Not on ballot
See also: Energy on the ballot and List of Idaho ballot measures

Ballotpedia has tracked 4 ballot measures relating to state and local energy policy in Idaho.

  1. Idaho Affirmation of Water Rights, SJR 7 (1924)
  2. Idaho Limit Use of Natural Streams, HJR 13 (1928)
  3. Idaho Municipal Electric Bonds, HJR 7 (2010)
  4. Idaho Nuclear Energy Initiative, Initiative 3 (1982)

Utility policy ballot measures

See also: Local utility tax and fees on the ballot

Ballotpedia has tracked no ballot measures relating to local utility tax and fees in Idaho.

Government agencies and committees

  • The Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy Resources (OER) is the office that holds responsibility for energy planning and policy development. The office focuses on promoting three things: energy efficiency, energy resource development in Idaho and ensuring adequate energy supplies are available to uphold the economy and quality of life. The OER conducts discussions so that the state can achieve effective options for the energy future through the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance (ISEA). The OER provides information on important parts of the 2012 Idaho Energy Plan, including energy efficiency and renewable energy resources. In order to maintain the base load power sources, the OER seeks to provide a level of electricity required to meet the needs of Idaho.[29]
  • The Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance (ISEA) provides energy information and analysis for the benefit of the public and government officials. The Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance was set up to initiate responses to challenges in our energy future. The ISEA brings together local, tribal, state and federal governments, in conjunction with profit and non-profit private sectors, in order to find solutions to energy development. The ISEA is the state’s main organization for seeking options for advanced energy production, energy efficiency, and energy business. The purposes of the ISEA include developing a sound energy portfolio for Idaho, developing energy resources and production methods, and ensuring stewardship of the environmental.[30]
  • The Idaho Public Utilities Commission regulates investor-owned or privately-owned utilities. These utilities provide gas, water, electricity or some telephone services for profit. Some examples include Idaho Power, Intermountain Gas, and United Water Idaho. In addition to rates, billing issues, quality of service and customer relations, the commission is also responsible for safe operations of the utilities it regulates including inspection of gas pipelines. The commission does not regulate utility cooperatives (owned by the customers) or utilities operated by cities.[31]
  • The Idaho Department of Lands oversees the management of state land trust. Idaho has 3.6 million acres of state lands where the revenue collected funds public education. The Idaho Director of Lands directs the department, which has two divisions.[32]

Major organizations

  • The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) is an organization that claims to be Idaho's leading voice for conservation. The ICL works to inform and engage in conservation by building a conservation community. The organization hopes to influence local, state, and federal policies to make sure that clean water, clean air, and public health are protected.[33]
  • Idaho Rivers United (IRU) is an organization whose mission is to protect and restore the rivers of Idaho. They focus on the ecological integrity of our rivers by encouraging citizen involvement. The IRU involves volunteers and members to help protect wild rivers, keep drinking water clean, defend populations of fish that are at risk, and minimize the impacts of dams. IRU also builds river protection campaigns to team up staff and volunteers.[34]
  • The Idaho Clean Energy Association is a non-profit organization that promotes the advancement of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and their associated technologies in Idaho. Its mission is to advance Idaho’s independence and economy through growing the clean energy industry. It is a leading voice in Idaho for policies and programs to promote Idaho’s clean energy resources. The association works to promote job growth in Idaho, keep energy dollars within the state, and reduce reliance on outside energy sources.[35]

In the news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Idaho+Energy+Policy"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Idaho Energy News Feed

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See also

External links


  1. These figures come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration State Profiles and Energy Estimates, Idaho Overview. Statistics for population and per capita income are for the year 2012; consumption and spending estimates are for 2011; and prices are for October 2013. Updated pricing information is available on the state's EIA profile. Prices will be updated on this page biannually.
  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Idaho Overview," accessed February 28, 2014
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Idaho Profile Analysis," December 18, 2013
  4. This chart depicts the state's energy consumption as reported by the EIA for 2011. Click the image to enlarge.
  5. "Gas Buddy", "Historical Gas Charts," accessed February 14, 2014
  6. To compare current gasoline prices in Idaho to the U.S averages, go to
  7. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Petroleum Marketing Monthly," February 2014," accessed February 14, 2014
  8. Tax Foundation, "State Gasoline Tax Rates, 2009-2013," March 21, 2013," accessed February 19, 2014
  9. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Idaho Overview," accessed February 22, 2014
  10. These figures come from the EIA State Profiles and Energy Estimates U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Idaho Overview," accessed February 22, 2014
  11. Public Utilities of the Pacific Northwest, "Idaho," accessed February 22, 2014
  12. Northwest Gas Association, "Natural Gas Fact Sheet Idaho," accessed February 22, 2014
  13. According to a report called "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," by the free-market Institute for Energy Research, the cost of electricity in states with RPS were on average 38 percent higher in 2010 than in states without a RPS.
  14. Institute for Energy Research, "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," accessed March 24, 2014
  15. Manhattan Institute, "The High Cost of Renewable-Energy Mandates," February 2012
  16. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  17. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "Idaho Utility Policies," accessed February 22, 2014
  18. For a full explanation of how the ACEEE calculates this ranking see the executive summary of their report here: [1]
  19. International Risk Governance Council, "The Rebound Effect: Implications of Consumer Behavior for Robust Energy Policies," accessed March 3, 2014
  20. Scientific American, "How Bad Is the Rebound from Energy Efficiency Efforts?," May 21, 2013, accessed March 3, 2014
  21. Institute for Energy Research, "Idaho Energy Facts," accessed March 6, 2014
  22. Idaho Code, "Geothermal Resources Act," accessed February 23, 2014
  23. Idaho Code, "Idaho Environmental Protection and Health Act," accessed February 23, 2014
  24. Idaho Code, "Idaho Land Remediation Act," accessed February 23, 2014
  25. Idaho Code, "Reconstruction of Dams and Related Appurtenances-Hydroelectric Facilities Construction," accessed February 23, 2014
  26. Idaho Code, "Mineral Rights in State Lands," accessed February 23, 2014
  27. Idaho Code, "Idaho Liquefied Petroleum Gas Public Safety Act," accessed on February 23, 2014
  28. Idaho Code, "Title 61-Public Utility Regulation," accessed February 22, 2014
  29. Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy Resources, "Welcome Statement from Administrator John Chatburn," accessed February 22, 2014
  30. Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy Resources, "Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance," accessed February 22, 2014
  31. Idaho Public Utilities Commission, "Who the Commission Regulates," accessed February 22, 2014
  32. Idaho Department of Lands, "Contact Us," accessed October 3, 2011
  33. Idaho Conservation League, "Mission and Vision," accessed February 22, 2014
  34. Idaho Rivers, "Mission and Strategic Plan," accessed February 22, 2014
  35. Idaho Clean Energy Association, "Home," accessed February 22, 2014