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Op-Ed - Idaho is Taking the Lead on Energy Efficiency Research, Application


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By Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

We in Idaho are blessed with an almost instinctive desire to preserve and protect what we have -- not shelving it, but rather using it carefully and to its best long-term advantage. That's called "stewardship," and it is at the heart of my efforts to advance the cause of both public and private energy efficiency.

On October 27th I joined representatives of our Idaho universities, the Idaho National Laboratory, my Office of Energy Resources and some of Idaho's most prominent and energy-intensive businesses in pledging our support and collaboration to the Center for Advanced Energy Studies' Energy Efficiency Research Institute.

It was yet another element of my Project 60 initiative to grow Idaho's economy and create more career opportunities, in this case by leveraging our strengths in alternative and renewable energy development. And there is nothing more renewable or sustainable than using less energy to produce more of everything from computer chips to potato chips.

Also joining us in affirming support for bringing together Idaho's world-class knowledge and technical expertise to help make the most of our limited and increasingly precious energy resources was Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Now, it might be surprising to some that conservative, redder-than-red Idaho would care about, much less solicit, the support of such a well-known environmental organization. But the fact is we share a commitment to stewardship, and an understanding that efficiency and conservation are the lowest-hanging fruits in our energy orchard.

What we can conserve, we don't have to generate, leaving more energy available to meet the growing needs of new technologies and our desire for new and expanding employment opportunities. What could be more conservative than that?

Ralph Cavanagh, an internationally known expert on energy efficiency and renewable energy, made the point in adding his support for the Energy Efficiency Research Institute that Idaho is at the cutting edge, leading the way among Northwest states in moving energy conservation from rhetoric to a real policy priority.
He said such a venture, bringing together producers and consumers of electricity under the umbrella of scientific research and development of technologies for improving energy efficiency, has been discussed for years, but that actually committing to do it is unprecedented in our region.

That shouldn't be the case. As Paul Kjellander, administrator of the Office of Energy Resources, points out, applying cost-effective energy efficiency measures requires no lengthy permitting processes such as those which bog down development of new energy transmission or generation capacity. And such measures represent a tangible resource that can produce returns on investment in a relatively short timeframe.

That's a paradigm that can be appreciated by diehard conservationists and bottom-line corporate executives alike. At the same time, it's a strategy that makes particular sense for a state which has fewer traditional energy resources like coal, oil and gas than some of our neighbors and yet enjoys some of the lowest electricity costs in the nation. That means energy efficiency isn't something being forced upon us -- we're embracing it because it's the right thing to do.

The Office of Energy Resources has earned some well-deserved recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy for the way in which it deployed federal stimulus dollars to help make schools, public buildings and large industrial customers more energy efficient. The agreement to join together in support of the Energy Efficiency Research Institute also reflects the commitment of such Idaho companies as Idaho Power, Micron and Simplot to more aggressively move advances in energy efficiency from the laboratory to the marketplace.

For example, the Office of Energy Resources has studied the feasibility of using "Sorption Waste Heat Recovery Heat Pump Technology" at Idaho food processing plants. At the two facilities where the technology has been studied in-depth -- Jerome Cheese in Jerome and McCain Foods in Burley -- it was found that installation would save the plants an estimated $143,000 and $151,000 in energy costs each year, and the investments would pay for themselves in four years and four and a half years, respectively. That money could be used to expand operations and hire more people, actually growing Idaho's economy by using less energy.

Our Office of Energy Resources also routinely participates in Energy Saving Assessments at Idaho industrial plants to help find ways to make operations more efficient. And it participates regularly with the U.S. Department of Energy in providing energy efficiency training and certification courses aimed at industrial facilities, both in Idaho and throughout the region.

Combining that kind of focus with the phenomenal capabilities of the scientists, technicians and other researchers at our universities -- and especially their collaborative efforts with the INL at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies -- the Energy Efficiency Research Institute being developed in Boise is in a unique position to make Idaho a world leader in this growing field. That will mean more career-path jobs and a more attractive environment for employers to relocate or expand.

And we're just getting started.

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