|Select Economic and Energy Data†||Value||State Rank|
|Real Gross Domestic Product, per capita||$29,980||9th lowest|
|Gasoline Price, per gallon||$2.95||5th highest|
|Electricity Price, per kWh||6.49¢||2nd lowest|
Idaho has some of the most affordable electricity in the nation, in part large because 80 percent of its electricity is provided by hydroelectricity, one of the most affordable sources of electricity. A greater percentage of electricity is generated from hydroelectricity in Idaho than in any other state. Natural gas provides 13 percent of the state’s electricity, with wood biomass contributing four percent of the state’s supply.
Idaho has few fossil fuel reserves but enjoys abundant hydroelectric potential on the Snake River and several smaller river basins. Of Idaho’s ten largest electricity facilities, six are hydroelectric. The 450-megawatt Hells Canyon Complex on the Snake River is the largest privately owned hydroelectric power complex in the nation and is one of dozens of privately owned hydroelectric power projects in Idaho.
Regulatory Impediments to Affordable Energy
Although affordable energy is a vital component of a healthy economy, regulations frequently increase energy costs. Regulations imposed in the name of reducing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions are especially costly. Carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of the combustion of all carbon-containing fuels, such as natural gas, petroleum, coal, wood, and other organic materials. Today, there is no cost-effective way to capture the carbon dioxide output of the combustion of these fuels, so any regulations that limit carbon dioxide emissions will either limit the use of natural gas, petroleum, and coal, or dramatically increase their prices.
Below are some facts about Idaho’s regulatory environment that are likely to affect the cost of energy or the cost of using energy. Thus far, Idaho has avoided imposing many regulations.
- Idaho does not cap greenhouse gas emissions.
- Idaho is an observer of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a regional agreement among some American governors and Canadian premiers to target greenhouse gas reductions. The central component of this agreement is the eventual enactment of a cap-and-trade scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. As an observer of the WCI, Idaho would not be bound to agreements made by WCI members.
- Idaho does not mandate that utilities sell a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources. However, in March 2006, Idaho established a 2-year moratorium on licensing or processing proposals for new coal-fired power plants; all subsequent proposals have been rejected.
- Idaho does not require gasoline to be mixed with renewable fuels.
- Idaho does not have fuel economy standards similar to California’s, which include attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles.
- Idaho requires new residential and commercial buildings to meet energy efficiency standards. Residential and commercial buildings must comply with the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).[i] The IECC, developed by the International Code Council, is a model code that mandates certain energy efficiency standards. State buildings must also meet energy efficiency standards. House Bill 422, enacted in 2008, requires all major state projects to be designed, constructed, and certified to be at least 10 to 30 percent more efficient than comparable buildings on similar sites.[ii]
- Idaho does not mandate that state agencies purchase energy-efficient appliances.
- Idaho allows electric utilities to “decouple” revenue from the sale of electricity, but does not allow natural gas utilities to decouple. Some states decouple revenue from actual sales, allowing utilities to increase their revenue by selling less electricity and natural gas.
† Data Sources: Real GDP per capita 2008: Bureau of Economic Analysis, News Release: GDP by State (June 2, 2009), http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_ state/gsp_newsrelease.htm; Unemployment: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment–February 2010 (Mar. 10, 2010); Gasoline Prices: American Automobile Association, AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report (Mar. 30, 2010); Electricity Prices: Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, Table 5.6.B., Average Retail Price of Electricity, (March 15, 2010), http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_b.html; Electricity Generation Data: Energy Information Administration, Electricity Generation 2009, http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/generation_state_mon.xls.
[i] Building Codes Assistance Project, Code Status: Idaho, http://bcap-energy.org/node/65.
[ii] Idaho Code § 39-2901 et seq. (2009), http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/Title39/T39CH29.htm.