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The Public Utilities Commission will hold a pair of customer hearings as it delves into bids by all three of Idaho’s regulated electric utilities to clamp down on the amounts and kinds of utility-sized solar projects they must contract with under federal law and state regulations.

Avista Corp., which serves customers in northern Idaho, and Rocky Mountain Power, which serves customers in parts of southeast Idaho, joined Idaho Power’s pending case to sharply reduce contract terms. Idaho Power asked to reduce the former 20-year term to 2 years. The PUC set an interim term of five-year contracts, something some solar developers say amounts to a deal-breaker for financers and a moratorium on future solar projects. Read More

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee continues to work on what’s being called a bipartisan energy bill that is also fairly far reaching. The committee will look at more than 20 separate bills as part of that larger package.

One of those bills, S1037, was introduced by Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, “To expand the provisions for termination of mandatory purchase requirements under the Public Regulatory Policies Act of 1978.”

It was introduced April 22 and runs two pages and two lines. The section we’re wondering about:

“(3) STATE DETERMINATION – After the date of enactment of this paragraph, no electric utility shall be required to enter into a new contract or obligation to purchase electric energy from a qualifying cogeneration facility or a qualifying small power production facility under this section if the State regulatory having ratemaking authority over the electric utility has determined that the electric utility has no need to acquire additional generation resource in order to meet its obligation to serve customer in the public interest.”

The Idaho PUC is taking public comment on an Idaho Power application that would trim customer rates for a year due to its annual “Power Cost Adjustment” (PCA) case in which it shows whether costs such as hydropower conditions were higher or lower than predicted. If approved by the PUC, customer rates would decline by $11.6 million, which translates to roughly 1 percent, or 58 cents a month for the average residential customer. The amounts are slightly higher then those initially proposed by Idaho Power, but the PUC staff and Idaho Power agreed the change was warranted. Read More

PacifiCorp, which does business in southeastern Idaho as Rocky Mountain Power, has filed its every-other-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the Idaho PUC. Idaho’s three regulated electric utilities submit IRPs as non-binding roadmaps showing how they expect to meet customer demand in coming years. For instance, utilities may expect to meet growing customer demands by building new power plants, importing more power through transmission lines, or boosting the amount of non-generation energy efficiency and conservation. Or more often a combination of the three.

Like most utilities, PacifiCorp’s plan envisions future electricity demand or “load” growth is lower than in past IRPs, especially in the residential customer class. Reasons include more efficient lighting and improved overall energy efficiency, and a slower economy that tends to drive down electricity consumption. PacifiCorp also said 86 percent of its future load growth from 2015 through 2024 may be met with energy efficiency. Read More

The Snake River Alliance was one of the sponsors of a new electric vehicle charging station at Whole Foods in Boise

The trend toward electric vehicles in Idaho continues to gain steam – or rather volts  – thanks to a collaborative effort among the Snake River Alliance, Whole Foods, Idaho Power, and Idaho Conservation League.

The four teamed up for an Earth Day unveiling of a new, fast-charging electric vehicle (EV) charging station now located in the Whole Foods Parking lot. The Snake River Alliance and Idaho Conservation League contributed toward the cost of the charger, as did Idaho Power, which procured it, and Whole Foods, which is also paying for the electricity that’s free to EV users. It’s a great example of how Idaho’s environmental community works with business partners like Whole Foods and also the state’s largest electric utility on a project with wide community benefit. Another Idaho conservation leader, the Sierra Club, installed a charger late last year adjacent to its Boise office at 503 W. Franklin St. Read More