Idaho Energy Update
April 20, 2010
Idaho Power is asking the Public Utilities Commission to reduce customer rates by a combined $58 million, although unrelated filings for small rate increases will reduce the monthly bill reduction. Meanwhile, Avista Utilities filed another rate case with the PUC – this one for a hefty 14 percent hike and sure to spark more grumbling from north Idaho customers who objected to last year’s big increase. Idaho Power has also settled on a preferred route for the controversial Boardman-Hemingway transmission line. And the Boise Climate Protection Advisory Committee is resuming its meetings Wednesday after a hiatus of nearly two years.
Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Idaho Power Rates to Fall – Slightly
A combination of regulatory filings by Idaho Power to the Public Utilities Commission will result in reduced rates for all classes of customers – but not as great as first reported by some news organizations.
The company’s annual Power Cost Adjustment drew the biggest headlines recently when Idaho Power said its filing would result in a combined $58 million rate cut, or about $2.50 a month for a typical residential bill. The combined rate reduction would be 6.5 percent, although the residential reduction would be 3.2 percent. The annual PCA results in once-a-year rate increases or decreases, depending on such things as water conditions in the previous year that affect how much of its cheap hydropower it can use or whether it must go to market for more expensive power in times of tight water supplies. The PCA is an annual filing, so given this winter’s unusually poor water year, customers will likely face a rate increase in next year’s PCA.
Offsetting that bit of good news for customers are three other filings, each of which would result in small rate increases if approved by the Public Utilities Commission. They include adjustments to recover costs associated with installation of new “smart” meters (a .27 percent increase in base rates); an adjustment in Idaho Power’s employee pension plan (a .61 percent increase in base rates); and the annual “fixed cost adjustment” to compensate for lost sales due to energy savings resulting from the company’s growing energy efficiency and conservation efforts (a .39 percent increase in base rates). Combined, those three increases will have the effect of dropping the final bill reduction from the PCA to less than $2 a month.
Idaho Power’s annual PCA request this year is the result of negotiations with representatives from most customer classes that led to an agreement that the company will not file a general rate case this year in exchange for a revenue sharing agreement between customers and the company. That agreement means there will be no general rate increase until 2012, although increases such as the three above are permitted.
Idaho Power’s PCA request to benefit customers was tempered in part by rising costs at the Bridger coal plants in Wyoming, which the company participates as a one-third partner with PacifiCorp. The company said fuel for the coal plants has gotten more expensive to increased labor costs, rising costs of extracting the coal, increases in mine reclamation costs, among other things.
To review Idaho Power’s PCA filing, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-10-12.
II: Avista Files for Big Electric Rate Increase, Smaller Gas Hike
Spokane-based Avista Utilities, which provides electric and gas service in much of the Idaho Panhandle, has asked the Public Utilities Commission to approve a hefty 14 percent increase in electric rates and a more modest 3.6 percent hike in gas rates.
According to the PUC, the request submitted by Avista would lead to an increase in an average residential monthly electric bill of $11.40 and an increase in a typical residential gas bill of $2.77. The company’s latest rate case was last year and resulted in an average 5.7 percent increase, which drew objections of many Avista customers and a peaceful protest outside the company’s Spokane headquarters.
In its application, the utility says the increases are warranted due to rising power supply costs, increased costs to meet federal reliability requirements, and the need to replace aging electric and gas infrastructure.
The PUC has set an April 23 deadline for organizations representing customer groups to intervene in the cases. Other groups and individuals will have opportunities to submit comments in the cases and will be invited to attend public workshops. Workshop dates and comment deadlines will be set at a later date by the Commission.
For more information on Avista’s application, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and then “Open Electric Cases” and “Open Gas Cases.” The electric case is AVU-E-10-01 and the gas case is AVU-G-10-01.
III: Boise’s Climate Protection Group Gets Back to Business
Boise’s Climate Protection Advisory Committee, which met twice a month from January 2007 through June 2008, will return to business tomorrow with the first of what will be quarterly meetings to advise the city on climate protection and carbon reduction initiatives. The public is invited to attend.
Boise Mayor David Bieter created the climate committee after making Boise the first Idaho city to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. The mayor’s climate committee proposed dozens of recommendations to the City Council on ways to reduce the city’s carbon emissions and to save energy through myriad building and transportation initiatives.
Boise has identified a five-step program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They include: Conduct a baseline emission inventory, document and quantify emissions reductions that have occurred since the baseline year, and forecast emissions growth; set an emission reduction target; develop an action plan to meet the target; implement actions in the plan; monitor and verify emissions reduction programs.
Tuesday’s meeting will be held from 8:30 to about 10 a.m. in the Ancell Conference Room on the fourth floor of City Hall. The agenda includes a discussion on Blueprint Boise and a building code update among several other items.
For more information on the Boise Climate Protection Program, visit http://www.cityofboise.org/Departments/Public_Works/Services/AirQuality/page18402.aspx
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IV: Idaho Power Selects Eastern Route for Boardman-Hemingway Transmission
Idaho Power says it has settled on a preferred route for its controversial transmission line from the Hemingway substation near Melba and south of Nampa in Canyon County to Boardman, Oregon, near the Columbia River. The company will submit its proposed eastern route to the Bureau of Land Management and Oregon’s Energy Facility Siting Council, which reviews the location of generation and transmission projects in that state. Idaho has no siting body to review large generation and transmission projects.
The proposed 300-mile, 500-kilovolt overhead transmission line is designed to open new access between Idaho Power’s service territory and Pacific Northwest markets and generation – particularly wind power and geothermal resources. The company also said it would allow better transmission of the 100 megawatts of power into Idaho from the Elkhorn Valley Wind Project in Union County, Oregon.
Idaho Power met stiff resistance over the line in the past several months, first when officials in Parma objected to being kept out of the loop in the company’s transmission line planning process. Other controversies continued, prompting Idaho Power to hold a series of community meetings in Idaho and Oregon to solicit local input on power line locations and other issues.
To learn more about the Boardman-Hemingway project, visit www.boardmantohemingway.com
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on April 26 and May 5, 10, and 17. 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 Boise Climate Protection Advisory Committee holds a public meeting Wednesday, April 21, at the Ancell Conference Room on the fourth floor of City Hall. The meeting begins at 8:30 and will run until about 10 a.m. See above for more details.
► The Idaho Green Expo runs May 8-9 at the Boise Centre in downtown Boise. The annual Expo features exhibitors, workshops, and activities throughout the weekend. Featured panel discussions this year include sessions on green jobs training and another on how those jobs are propelling Idaho’s new green energy economy. For more information on the Expo, visit www.idahogreenexpo.org