Sun Valley Institute

Resilience requires a willingness to be forward thinking to position ourselves for the new opportunities – and threats – of a changing world. Environmental shifts and economic interdependence call for proactive leadership to build resilient communities and economies. We see this acutely here in Blaine County, where fires, drought, power outages and income inequality undermine our economy and quality of life.   The Institute promotes this proactive thinking, and here are our plans for 2017. We hope you will join us.

Resilient Energy

Energy is foundational to economic prosperity and it can undermine or strengthen resilience, depending upon the type of system. Importing energy, whether by power lines or gasoline, undermines resilience, as those sources are at risk to disruptions. The more locally-reliant an energy system is, its reliability increases, as does its economic contribution, keeping energy spending in the local economy and creating jobs and tax base. Local electricity options in Blaine County are renewable: solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and small hydro. Therefore localizing our electricity system also benefits our environment. (The grid is currently approximately 35% coal, 10% natural gas).

ford-ev-shotTherefore, building on the success of Solarize Blaine, in 2017 the Institute is planning to launch an electric vehicle (EV) adoption program, enabling local consumer purchase at a much-reduced price. Consumers will save money through reduced fuel costs, reduce our dependence on imported and polluting petroleum-based fuels while adding possible energy storage (in the form of car batteries) onto our local grid.

The solar installations and EV adoption are down payments on our resilient energy strategy for our community, to benefit our economy, environment and reliability. We are developing this strategy in collaboration with government and utility representatives, as well as the Idaho National Laboratory. Together we will work toward greater local self-reliance and a more dependable and clean grid system. Communities, corporations, and military bases are all moving to local energy and microgrids, (often called distributed energy resources), for greater reliability as well as economic and environmental benefits. This collaborative effort seeks to not only benefit the community, but also serve as a case study for others.

Finally, but importantly, the Institute is developing a program for low-income solar, which would enable qualifying multi-family dwellings and low-income family homes to receive the benefits of clean energy and its lower costs. Solar installers involved with Solarize Blaine paid the Institute 1% of all contract payments and 100% of these funds will go to this low-income solar program.

Resilient Food

Food has the capacity to transform our community’s health and economy, ensuring a vibrant future. The Institute’s LFA works to expand our proven capacity to grow food locally, and to increase local and regional processing, distribution, waste recovery efforts, as well as wholesale and retail access points. This systemic approach offers enormous economic opportunity – jobs in all phases of food systems to create crucial resilience in our community, which currently relies on a tourist economy to the tune of 70%. LFA is also working to change school lunch procurement policies, implement edible education and farm to institution programs so families and children can regain control of their health and well-being through more appropriate food choices.

lfa-logo-webIn 2017 with a specific focus upon restaurants and schools, The Local Food Alliance (LFA) will continue to connect consumers – wholesale, retail, institutional and organizational – to local and regional farmers and producers with the goal of increased demand and correlated supply. With restaurants, we are meeting with chefs and restaurateurs to demonstrate the benefits of sourcing and providing fresh local and regional food. In schools, we are facilitating edible education programs that include gardening and food production, food preparation, food science and economics, and food as it relates to health.

Resilient Land and Water

The Institute will continue to work with landowners and decision makers to strengthen resilience through sound land use practices. We will continue to collaborate with landowners to evaluate the potential for local food, energy, and housing to generate more income than is currently being produced while benefiting the environment and the broader economy.

bellevue-triangleIn addition, the Institute is seeking to work with our academic partners, Arizona State University, Boise State University and the University of Idaho, as well as local organizations to carry out research projects to inform water-related decisions for greater resilience, both quality and quantity. The Big Wood River is a vital resource along with the aquifer beneath. Climate change is putting increasing stress on water resources in Blaine County. A priority area of interest for the Institute is to help identify impact investment opportunities to restore the Big Wood River watershed. Such an approach is having success in other regions and could help mobilize needed investment to these resources.

Community Resilience Framework

The Institute continues to work with diverse community representatives to map existing efforts and develop metrics to gauge local resilience. By working with the community to collaboratively determine what is resilience and local quality of place for Blaine County, and to identify the quantitative metrics and qualitative aspects of resilience, the framework will enable our community to pinpoint our highest needs and identify the gaps in meeting those needs. This will guide both the work of the Institute as well as help to inform local decision-makers in government, business and nonprofit organizations in the creation of effective strategies to increase resilience.

Research, Education, and Outreach

forum-crowd-bwResearch – To strengthen the Institute’s work, we will continue to collaborate with academic institutions including Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute for Sustainability (GIOS), Boise State University, and the University of Idaho, among others. To date, they have contributed to the Institute’s work developing a Community Resilience Framework and metrics, Energy Resilience, and initial looks at the economic value of the Big Wood River.

Education & Outreach – To support our role in sharing strategies to strengthen resilience, the Institute seeks to publish state by state local investment handbooks, starting in Idaho, Washington, and other western states, on the power of local investing. This will be done in partnership with Michael Shuman, author of Local Dollars, Local Sense, also a speaker at the Sun Valley Economic Summit and Sun Valley Forum on Resilience. The Institute will partner with local academic institutions and organizations to develop this important tool to drive economic opportunity in communities including ours. Bringing investment back into local communities can help sustain new businesses, grow existing ones, create jobs, and diversity the economy, a key tool in addressing resilience.

The Institute will host the third annual Sun Valley Forum on Resilience from July 6-9, 2017, gathering leaders from Sun Valley and around the world. Speakers and participants together will address topics including investment, planning and community-building, public engagement and activation, with focus locally as well as globally.