The shift toward renewable energy is gaining momentum as the world grapples with the urgent need to combat climate change and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
Idaho is emerging as a player in the transition to clean, renewable energy by ensuring responsible mining practices and taking measures to diminish the use of environmentally harmful resources.
Idaho Power, the largest utility company in the state, has set a goal of achieving 100% clean energy reliance by 2045. The company has recently pulled out of some of its coal-fired power plants, and has plans to leave coal behind by 2028. The company is also building battery storage systems in Owyhee and Elmore counties as part of an effort to increase the reliability of power distribution.
To successfully transition to renewable energy sources, mining becomes an integral part of the equation. The extraction of minerals and resources is essential for the production of renewable energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries.
“Renewable energy is so reliant on minerals and mining, in order for it to be developed and as a general matter, we see a lot of environmental group opposition to mining. But we can’t have renewables if we don’t have mining,” Erika Malmen, partner and pro-mining attorney at Perkins Coie, said.
Idaho environmentalists advocate for the growth of renewable energy sources, as well as responsible siting and planning of renewable energy projects to minimize potential negative impacts on ecosystems, habitats, and local communities.
Malmen highlighted the significant advancements made in health, safety, and environmental regulations over the past four to five decades, which are expected to mitigate many of the challenges associated with mining that were observed in the past.
“There’s been a lot of improvements in health, safety and environmental regulations in the last 40 to 50 years that should prevent some of the issues that we’ve seen in the past with mining.”
In 1953, Idahoans passed the Idaho Dredge and Placer Mining Protection Act, and in 1971, state legislatures passed the Mined Land Reclamation Act in 1971. The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is responsible for administering both laws and regulating mineral resources. The IDL also promotes responsible mining activities that comply with environmental protection standards.
By navigating these challenges of supporting the shift to renewable energy with responsible mining practices, Idaho is positioning itself as a key contributor to a sustainable and greener future, experts say.l