|Idaho Energy Update
Aug. 3, 2010
Avista Utilities, which serves much of northern Idaho’s electric and gas customers, has settled with several customer groups in its current general rate case, and if approved by the PUC the agreement will mean a smaller rate case than proposed. Also, the Boise City Climate Protection Program Advisory Committee meets tomorrow morning (Wednesday) to explore a number of energy-saving initiatives. And the PUC has accepted Idaho Power’s 2009 plan on how it will meet future energy needs over the next two decades. Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Avista Reaches Settlement with Stakeholders in Latest Rate Case
Spokane-based Avista Corp., which provides electric and natural gas service to much of northern Idaho, has joined the staff of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission in asking the PUC to approve a rate case settlement agreement that could mean higher rates – though not as high as the utility first sought.
Avista filed its application with the PUC last week. The PUC is not bound to accept the proposed settlement agreement, and utility customers will have an opportunity to comment on it once the PUC revises its schedule for this case. Besides the utility and the PUC staff, other participants in the settlement discussions included Clearwater Paper, Idaho Forest Products, the Community Action Partnerships of Idaho, the Snake River Alliance, the Idaho Conservation League, and North Idaho Energy Logs.
Avista originally filed for an increase in its electric rates of 14 percent and in gas rates of 3.6 percent. This year’s rate increase request followed one last year in which the company sought a 12.8 percent increase that was reduced to 5.7 percent. The company said the rate hike is needed because of rising power supply costs, replacement costs for equipment, transmission lines and other infrastructure, and added costs to ensure the utility meets federal requirements on energy reliability.
Under the settlement terms agreed to in this rate case, rather than a 14 percent electric rate increase, the increase will be tempered in large part by using about $17 million in “deferred state income tax” refunds that have been sitting on the utility’s books and applying them over the first two of three years covered by the agreement. That brings the rate increase down to about 3.6 percent for the year beginning this Oct. 1 and 3.9 percent the year after. However, Avista concurrently filed its annual Power Cost Adjustment to reflect the true cost of generating and purchasing power over the past year. Once that is added to the mix, the total rate increase would be 6.6 percent, or about a $5.40 monthly increase for an average customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month.
The settlement agreement also contained a number of other provisions, including a commitment by Avista to boost funding, outreach and education for low-income customers and a commitment to explore possible new rate structures in a workshop between now and the next rate case.
To review the stipulation and other documents in this case, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and then scroll to AVU-E-10-01. To review the gas case, go to the same website and “Gas Cases” and scroll to AVU-G-10-01.
II: Boise City Climate Protection Program Panel Meets Wednesday
The Boise City Climate Protection Advisory Committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4, in the Ancell Conference Room on the Fourth Floor of Boise City Hall.
The agenda for the meeting, which is open to the public, includes project updates on the Boise Airport solar project, the city’s co-generation project, community development block grant projects, and Blueprint Boise. Committee members will also review United Water’s water conservation data; a proposed anti-idling program for vehicles in the city; and an update on an ultra-efficient home being built by long-time clean energy advocate John Weber – who also sits on the Snake River Alliance Board of Directors.
The Advisory Committee met much of 2007 and 2008 to develop several recommendations on ways Idaho’s largest city can reduce its carbon emissions through more efficient transportation policies, energy efficient landscaping, building design and other practices. It is reconvening this year to advise the city on progress made on the recommendations and on other climate-protection strategies that have developed since the panel issued its report.
For more information on the city’s climate program, including its final report on the results of the 2007-2008 meetings, visit: http://www.cityofboise.org/Departments/Public_Works/Services/AirQuality/page18402.aspx
III: PUC Accepts Idaho Power 20-Year Resource Plan
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has accepted Idaho Power’s every-other-year “integrated resource plan” (IRP) that serves as the utility’s roadmap on how it will meet future energy needs through such measures as energy efficiency and conservation programs, new transmission, and new traditional and renewable generation resources.
Idaho’s three regulated electric utilities file their IRPs every two years. The PUC doesn’t “approve” the planning documents, but rather “accepts” them and certifies that the plans meet state regulatory requirements.
The 2009 IRP envisions adding about 3,000 megawatts of capacity over the next 20 years to meet expected load growth. That new capacity will come in the form of new renewable and gas-fired generation facilities, transmission to and from other markets, and energy efficiency and conservation. The plan envisions adding 540MW of new generation in the coming decade, including 300MW from the new Langley Gulch natural gas plant in Payette County, 150MW of new wind generation, and 40MW of new geothermal generation. An upgrade of the Shoshone Falls hydro facility will add another 20MW by 2015. The second decade of the plan envisions adding another 1,400MW of natural gas generation and 500MW in additional wind power.
Major new transmission projects include the Gateway West transmission line from Wyoming to a new substation near Melba, and the Boardman-Hemingway line from that new Hemingway substation to a substation near Boardman near the Columbia River in Oregon. The IRP does not include adding new coal-fired generation. While it acknowledges the need to prepare for federal policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to place a cost on carbon emissions, it does not outline a plan to reduce Idaho Power’s reliance on coal complexes in three neighboring states for nearly half its generation. It also remains agnostic on whether Idaho Power should consider withdrawing its 10 percent participation in the heavily polluting Boardman coal plant in Oregon, although the controlling owner, Portland General Electric, now says it may decommission that plant by 2020 rather than adding new pollution control equipment and running it through 2040. Assuming that happens, Idaho Power will need to replace the 50MW to 60MW of power it obtains from Boardman.
To review Idaho Power’s 2009 IRP documents, visit www.puc.idaho.gov and click “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-09-33.
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Aug. 9, 16, and 23. 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 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission holds public meetings in Boise on Aug. 9 and in Idaho Falls on Aug. 12 to hear public comments on a plan by French-owned Areva Energy Services to build a uranium enrichment factory near Idaho Falls. The NRC at first refused to hold a second hearing on the controversial project beyond the one planned in Idaho Falls, but reversed that decision after being challenged by the Snake River Alliance and others. The Boise hearing will begin with registration at 6:30 p.m. with the meeting running from 7-9 p.m. at the Oxford Suites Boise Hotel at 1426 S. Entertainment Ave. At issue is the NRC’s recently released draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on the proposed project. The document is available on the NRC website at www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr1945/