Idaho Energy Update
March 2, 2010

The Public Utilities Commission wants to hear from Idaho Power customers about the company’s plan to make its conservation cost recovery pilot program permanent. Idaho Power also wants the PUC to approve a contract to purchase power from an anaerobic digester near Twin Falls. Meanwhile, Rocky Mountain Power is asking the PUC to raise its energy efficiency surcharge to expand its energy-saving programs, and the eastern Idaho utility is also seeking a rate hike to reflect higher fuel costs. And we have the latest list of energy legislation in the Idaho Legislature.
Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!

Ken

Ken Miller
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
(208) 344-9161
[email protected]iance.org
www.snakeriveralliance.org

I: PUC Taking Public Comments on Idaho Power’s ‘Decoupling’ Pilot

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is taking public comments through March 23 on whether Idaho Power’s conservation program “decoupling” pilot project should be made permanent.

“Decoupling” is a mechanism designed to ensure the utility can recover all its “fixed costs” so it doesn’t lose money it’s entitled to when its conservation programs succeed in reducing energy sales. Each year during the three-year pilot program, Idaho Power comes before the PUC for its “fixed cost adjustment” that results in either a small increase in rates or a decrease. In 2008, for example, the adjustment led to a 1.3 percent increase in rates to residential and commercial customers; while in 2007 it was a .8 percent decrease.

Idaho Power became the first western utility outside of California to implement this mechanism, designed to remove a utility’s disincentive to provide energy efficiency and conservation programs that reduce sales. The credits or surcharges are updated each year, and the PUC has set a cap of 3 percent on any surcharges. The Fixed Cost Adjustment is separate from general rate cases or adjustments to reflect the utility’s power costs due to changing hydropower conditions or coal and gas costs.

According to the PUC, Idaho Power raised its conservation programs investment from $11.5 million to $15.66 million in 2007, bringing an energy savings of 91,145 megawatt hours – a 29 percent increase in energy savings in 2006. The conservation investment in 2008 rose to $21.2 million and resulted in a savings of 104,156 megawatt hours – an increase of 54 percent from 2007.

To review Idaho Power’s application and related documents, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-09-28. Comments can be submitted through March 23 by clicking the “Comments and Questions” icon on the PUC’s home page, or by mailing them to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxing them to (208) 334-3762.

II: Rocky Mountain Power Seeks Increase in Energy Efficiency Charge

Rocky Mountain Power, the PacifiCorp subsidiary that serves portions of eastern Idaho, has asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to approve an increase in the charge it levies to fund energy efficiency programs.

In a notice to its 69,000 Idaho customers, Rocky Mountain Power said it is seeking a 2.13 percent increase in its “Customer Efficiency Services surcharge for all customer classes. If granted by the PUC, the higher charge would boost annual revenue collections for the energy-saving measures from $5.2 million to $8.3 million. For a typical residential customer using 827 kilowatt-hours, the bill would increase $1.62 per month. The hike would take effect on May 1, or whenever the PUC grants the request, whichever is later.

The company said the request was driven by increasing participation by its customers in its energy efficiency and conservation programs, which cost less per kilowatt-hour than electricity from a new power plant. Residential energy programs offered to by Rocky Mountain Power range from cash incentives for efficient appliances; improved insulation; efficient windows; low-income weatherization; and refrigerator replacement. There are also a number of business and irrigation programs. For a complete listing, go to www.rockymountainpower.net

To review Rocky Mountain Power’s request, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and “Electric Cases” and scroll to PAC-E-10-03.

III: PUC Taking Comments on Rocky Mountain Power Fuel Cost Adjustment

The PUC is also taking comments through March 10 on a request by Rocky Mountain Power to boost residential rates by 1.29 percent to reflect higher fuel costs to generate power. Irrigation rates would rise 1.55 percent and commercial rates by 1.34 percent.

Rocky Mountain’s “Energy Cost Adjustment Mechanism,” similar to Idaho Power’s Power Cost Adjustment, was approved by the PUC last fall to allow the utility to recover power supply costs that aren’t included in the company’s base rates. Each April, the PUC will adjust Rocky Mountain Power’s ECAM to reflect higher or lower than expected costs for such things as coal or hydropower generation or the need to purchase additional power on the open market. Rocky Mountain Power relies on natural gas turbines for about one-third of its power, which can change with seasonal water conditions and availability.

To review the utility’s application and related documents, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then to “File Room” and “Electric Cases” and then to PAC-E-10-01. Comments can be submitted through March 23 by clicking the “Comments and Questions” icon on the PUC’s home page, or by mailing them to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxing them to (208) 334-3762.

IV: Idaho Power Seeks PUC OK of Digester Power from Cargill

Idaho Power has asked the PUC to approve a contract to purchase up to 2.25 megawatts of firm power from Cargill, Inc., which has been producing electricity from its Bettencourt Dry Creek Biofactory near Hansen east of Twin Falls since 2008.

The anaerobic digester power purchase would take place under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which Congress passed in the 1970s to encourage new renewable energy development during the energy crisis.

The PUC is taking public comments on the proposed 10-year contract through March 18. To review the company’s application and related documents, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and “Electric Cases” and scroll down to IPC-E-10-02. See the above item for information on how to submit comments.

On The Agenda:

► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on March 3, 8, 15, 22, and 29. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us. The meetings typically start at 1:30 p.m.

►The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will be taking public comments through April 15 on Idaho Power’s Integrated Resource Plan, which is the company’s roadmap on how it plans to meet future energy demands through energy efficiency and new generation and transmission. The plan can be found on Idaho Power’s website at www.idahopower.com/2009IRP or at the PUC’s website at www.puc.state.id.us and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scrolling to IPC-E-09-33.

► Lunch & LEED: Sustainable Business Practices, a brown bag presented by the University of Idaho Boise, is a monthly meeting designed for business leaders in search of practical solutions that will help businesses make a commitment to sustain ability and improve their bottom line by focusing on people, profit and planet. Meetings will be on the first Thursday of every month. The meetings are at the University of Idaho Boise, 322 E. Front Street in the Legacy Pointe room on the first floor. They take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. RSVP to [email protected] or by calling 334-2999. Bring your own lunch; drinks and cookies will be provided.

IN THE LEGISLATURE: Carbon Cap & Trade Opposition Moves Forward; School Energy Bill Approval Likely in Senate

The House has passed a non-binding memorial by Rep. Eric Anderson that puts the Idaho Legislature on record as opposing a federal carbon cap and trade mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, legislation to allow school districts to use renewable energy generation for heat and cooling has been cleared for anticipated approval by the full Senate, likely today.

Each week, we’ll post thumbnail summaries on where the bills stand. Text of bills can be found by going to the Legislature’s main site at www.legislature.idaho.gov and clicking the “Bill Center” link and then “Legislation By Subject” and scrolling to the categories in which you’re interested in. Such as “Energy,” “Environment” or “Utilities.” You then click the link to the bill for more information. The Energy section currently looks like this:

ELECTRICITY AND ELECTRICIANSELECTRICITY AND ELECTRICIANS
Electrical Bd fees, state treasury deposits, when H0553

Electrical inspections, local government jurisdiction H0501

Municipal electric systems, authorized indebtedness HJR003

Municipal electric systems, authorized indebtedness HJR007

Renewable energy projects, expedite permits S1273

School energy system, construction, sale, bonds S1354

UTILITIESUTILITIES
Common carriers, remove vessels/wharfinger/warehouseman H0575

Municipal electric systems, authorized indebtedness HJR003

Municipal electric systems, authorized indebtedness HJR007

New tariffs, justification finding, suspend, alter S1377

PUC, approp, add’l. H0406 – Ch.2
Public drinking water system defined H0451

Renewable energy projects, expedite permits S1273

School energy system, construction, sale, bonds S1354

Video service, franchise authority, regulations H0520

Here’s a look at the status of pending bills:
Expedite Renewable Energy Projects Permit Review (S1273):
Requires local governments and the state to expedite permits for renewable energy projects and to provide for public meetings on such applications in an accelerated fashion.
Status: Referred to Senate State Affairs on 2/25. No hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Kate Kelly (332-1351) and the House and Senate Democratic caucuses.

Energy Resources Office, 2010 Supplemental Appropriation (S1302):
This supplemental appropriations bill provides $25 million in additional spending authority from the federal energy stimulus program and another $262,800 to the Office of Energy Resources.
Status: Signed by governor.
Sponsor(s): Ray Houston, Office of Budget and Policy Analysis (334-4739).

Public Utilities Commission 2010 Supplemental Appropriation (H406):
Adds another $232,700 to the Public Utilities Commission 2010 budget from federal energy stimulus funds (Electricity Regulators Assistance Grant) to “increase capacity to manage significant increases in dockets and other regulatory actions resulting from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (AARA) electricity –related topical areas. Topical areas include energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage and transmission, and smart grid technologies.”
Status: Signed by governor.
Sponsor(s): Keith Bybee, Office of Budget and Policy Analysis (334-4739).

Resolution Opposing Carbon Cap & Trade (HJM11):
Non-binding memorial sends message from the Idaho Legislature to Congress expressing opposition to a federal carbon “cap and trade” mechanism to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. Memorial says cap & trade would pose a financial hardship on Idaho farmers and families.
Status: Approved by House; pending in Senate Resources and Environment.
Sponsor(s): Reps Eric Anderson and George Eskridge.

Renewable Energy Systems in Schools (S1354):
Allows schools to build and operate certain thermal energy systems to produce hot and chilled water and allows schools to sell excess thermal energy to a willing buyer and use those revenues for a school district’s general operating expenses.
Status: Awaiting final approval in full Senate.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Monty Pearce and Rep. Lawerence Denney.

Municipal Utilities (HJR007):
Would amend Idaho’s Constitution to allow municipalities that own their own power systems (there are about 10 in the state) to issue revenue bonds requiring a simple majority of voter approval to finance electric generation, transmission, or distribution facilities so long as those services are provided exclusively to the utility’s customers. It would also allow these municipal-owned utilities to negotiate long-term agreements with Bonneville Power Administration (their primary provider) or other suppliers without requiring an election.
Status: Approved by House; pending in Senate State Affairs.
Sponsor(s): Rep. Fred Wood and Sen. Joe Stegner.