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Rewriting Idaho’s Energy Plan … Without You — Ken Miller

The state entity helping the Legislature revise the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan has finally sent lawmakers its draft 2012 Idaho Energy Plan – but not before utility interests helped “rewrite” the plan by removing recommendations like tax incentives to boost energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.

The Legislature’s Interim Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee sought the help of the state Office of Energy Resources (OER) and its Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance (ISEA) as part of the scheduled five-year review of the 2007 Energy Plan. The ISEA is served by multiple “task forces” specializing in such things as energy efficiency and wind and solar and carbon issues, but the ISEA’s board of directors is a lopsided group dominated by Idaho’s utilities – the very ones that could be affected if some of the Energy Plan’s policies and action items were to be implemented.

Of 11 members of the ISEA Board of Directors, five represent utilities: Idaho Power, Avista Utilities, Rocky Mountain Power, Intermountain Gas, and Idaho Falls Power. Another two represent agriculture interests (Idaho Farm Bureau and J.R. Simplot Co.). No ISEA Board members represent typical Idaho energy consumers such as residential and small business customers.

So it may come as no surprise that in its draft Energy Plan sent to the Legislature for its review, the ISEA version of the 2012 Idaho Energy Plan does away with recommendations backing clean energy tax and other incentives while simultaneously removing from the plan a recommendation that Idaho adopt the most recent international building codes.

To be fair, the ISEA draft 2012 Energy Plan contains new and important energy data for the state as well as updates on new energy technologies that can benefit the state. The problem is that it also tosses aside some forward-looking energy policies and action items that were overwhelmingly adopted by the Idaho Legislature when it approved the Energy Plan back in 2007.

Why should you care?

Because your voice has yet to be heard by the Legislature. Meanwhile, as Idaho utilities were given unusual clout in tweaking the state’s energy roadmap, some of these same utilities are also waging a battle at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to slow down the amount of renewable energy resources they must take on.

The Idaho Legislature adopted Idaho’s first state energy plan in a quarter century in 2007 after extensive public involvement and public hearings through much of 2006. That plan called for a five-year review to update the document and to reflect changes that have taken place in the fast-moving energy world. The Legislature’s Interim Energy Committee was tasked with the review and is in the process of updating the plan in time to present it to the 2012 Legislature.

In response to the Interim Energy Committee’s request for technical assistance in updating the plan, ISEA submitted a preliminary draft to the Committee in September, and after a final meeting on the document on Oct. 7 the ISEA submitted its final version to the Committee on Oct. 13, cutting short the public’s chance to review and respond to it. That’s because lawmakers set an Oct. 21 deadline for those wanting to provide public comment on changes to the plan.

“This has been one of the best-kept secrets in state government,” Alliance Clean Energy Program Director Ken Miller said. “Unfortunately, there has been little in the way of public outreach to let Idahoans know their state Energy Plan is being rewritten. Energy is a big deal in Idaho; it touches the lives of Idahoans in so many ways. Involving Idahoans in these policy issues should be a priority, but so far the public has been left on the sidelines.”

In its comments to the Interim Energy Committee on the Energy Plan, the Alliance asked the panel to extend the public comment period indefinitely: “This is far too important an issue to set an arbitrary deadline on public participation, especially since ISEA didn’t make its proposal public until less than a week before the comment deadline.”

The public can submit comments on the 2007 Energy Plan and what they think the new 2012 Energy Plan should look like via e-mail to Mike Nugent at the Legislative Services Office or at 208-334-2475. The ISEA’s submittal to the Committee can be found on the Legislature’s website by clicking the “Interim Committees” link.

In addition, the Interim Committee will consider ISEA’s recommended revisions and other comments when it meets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in the Tamarack Room of the Double Tree Hotel in Garden City.

The Alliance has released a 33-page report on the status of the 2007 Energy Plan’s implementation, which shows most of the plan’s action items have yet to be acted upon. You can see the Alliance’scomments on the ISEA Energy Plan revisions. And then add your own!

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