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Report Ranks Idaho #1 For Green Energy, But Coal Imports Show A Different Picture

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A new study from an environmental think tank ranks Idaho among the states with a low ecological footprint. The study from the Global Footprint Network ranked states against one other on a number of green measures. Idaho received the top ranking for electricity generated from renewable energy. Washington and Oregon come in second and third, respectively.

A close look shows the renewable source that earned Idaho its high ranking is hydropower, with wind and biomass taking up smaller shares.

But Ben Otto with the Idaho Conservation League says the report doesn’t take into account the fossil fuel energy the state imports.

"Forty-sixty percent of the electricity we actually use in our state," says Otto, "comes from coal power that’s outside of our state.”

Otto says Idaho’s coal energy comes from Montana, Utah, Wyoming and other intermountain west states.

“We don’t just look within our borders; we work in a regional grid. And we rely very heavily on our neighbors. So this number doesn’t represent reality about how the system actually operates.”

Otto points out that a heavy reliance on hydropower may need reconsideration as climate change affects the region’s water supply. He says the state should capitalize on two mostly untapped renewable energies.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to reinvest our energy dollars in solar and in geothermal that will be clean and will also keep our dollars right here.”

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.