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Monday, October 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Co-op’s landfill gas power plant lands in middle of utility energy credit fight

The new power plant at the Fighting Creek landfill in Kootenai County (Kootenai Electric Cooperative)
The new power plant at the Fighting Creek landfill in Kootenai County (Kootenai Electric Cooperative)

Methane gas that long has formed deep within the rotting garbage at Kootenai County's Fighting Creek Landfill is going to a new use today: It's generating enough electricity to power 1,800 homes. The county and the non-profit Kootenai Electric Cooperative flipped the switch on their joint venture last month, launching a new clean, renewable, local power source that has officials beaming with pride.
"It's going to generate revenue for the county, and it's so good for the environment," said Kootenai County solid waste director Roger Saterfiel. "We were just burning the gas off. ... It's being put to a use now."

But in the larger world of energy politics, the project has landed KEC in the middle of a big-bucks fight between Idaho's largest utilities and small generators of renewable power that's threatening a key piece of the new plant's long-term financial plan.     At issue are renewable energy credits, also called "green tags," which have great value in states where utilities must generate a significant and growing percentage of their power from renewable energy. Idaho isn't among those states - Washington is - but the credits can be sold on the open market, potentially for millions.

Idaho's three largest utilities - Avista Corp., Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power - introduced legislation this year declaring that when a utility buys power from a renewable generator, it gets the credits too. The bill didn't pass, but it set off a fiery debate that's now playing out in a pending case at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, which has approved some contracts in recent years in which utilities and generators split the credits.

KEC's already given half the credits from its new 3.2 MW plant to the county, under its contract, and is counting on the other half for its own money-making purposes. Now the cooperative is trying to sign a deal to send the landfill power to Oregon - where state law says the generator gets to keep the renewable energy credits; you can read my full story here at

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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