Idaho State Energy Profile
RESOURCES AND CONSUMPTION
Idaho is rich in renewable energy resources but has few fossil fuel reserves. The Snake River and several smaller river basins offer Idaho some of the greatest hydroelectric power resources in the nation. Idaho’s geologically active mountain areas have substantial geothermal and wind power potential. The state economy is energy-intensive, with energy-consuming industries including mining, forest products, and transportation equipment. Although Idaho’s total energy consumption is low when compared with other states, the total population is also low; per capita energy consumption is close to the national average.
Idaho markets receive petroleum product supply from refineries in Montana and Utah via two petroleum product pipelines. Total petroleum consumption is low. Idaho is one of the few states that use conventional motor gasoline statewide. (Most states require the use of specific gasoline blends in non-attainment areas because of air-quality considerations.)
The industrial and residential sectors are Idaho’s largest natural gas-consuming sectors. Close to one-half of households in Idaho use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating. Idaho is part of the transportation corridor for shipping natural gas from Canada to the West and Midwest markets via two natural gas pipeline systems. The Gas Transmission Northwest Co. pipeline system from Alberta enters the U.S. at Idaho’s Kingsgate Center on the border with Canada before flowing south to California markets. The smaller Northwest Pipeline system supplies Idaho with gas from Canada via Washington State and if necessary, from Wyoming via Utah, taking advantage of the pipeline’s bi-directional capabilities.
COAL, ELECTRICITY, AND RENEWABLES
Hydroelectric power plants dominate Idaho electricity generation, supplying roughly four-fifths of the state's production. Natural gas-fired power plants provide over one-tenth of the State’s production, while coal- and wood-fired generation and wind turbines supply the remainder. Six of Idaho’s 10 largest generating facilities run on hydroelectric power. Idaho also has dozens of privately owned hydroelectric power projects, including the 450-megawatt Hells Canyon Complex on the Snake River, the largest privately owned hydroelectric power complex in the nation. In March 2006, the Idaho state legislature passed a 2-year moratorium on licensing or processing proposals for new coal-fired power plants. Although the moratorium has since expired, all subsequent proposals for new coal-fired power plants have been rejected. A nuclear plant has been proposed in Elmore County, just south of Boise, that would be the state’s first commercial nuclear plant and would power all of Idaho, as well as provide an opportunity to sell electricity to other states. Several high voltage transmission lines connect Idaho to other western power grids, enabling large interstate electricity transfers, and Idaho currently purchases large amounts of electricity from neighboring states to meet demand. About one-third of Idaho households use electricity as their primary energy source for home heating.