Idaho Energy Update
February 17, 2010
A growing number of Idaho cities are taking it on themselves to embrace new energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, sending signals that Idaho’s clean energy movement is percolating from the ground up. Read on for some promising initiatives reported in the past two weeks in Pocatello, Post Falls and Ketchum. Meanwhile, more than 30 citizen lobbyists filled the Idaho Statehouse Monday for the 2nd Clean Energy Lobby Day. You’ll also want to check out the NW Energy Coalition’s new “Efficiency Works” web site, a list of resources by Idaho Power to help those struggling with their electric bills, and news of Avista’s proposed increase in its conservation surcharge for natural gas customers. 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!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: More Idaho Cities Riding the Clean Energy Wave
They’re not the first and they certainly won’t be the last, but three more Idaho cities are showing how they truly “get” how energy efficiency and renewable energy programs can chop away at their utility bills and help their communities stake a claim to the sustainable energy movement at the local level.
News accounts in the last week show how, city-by-city and county-by-county, local governments aren’t waiting for the state to fully implement the three-year-old 2007 Idaho Energy Plan. Instead, they’re reaching out to the private sector, utilities and other government agencies to get these innovative energy programs off the ground. Here’s a quick round-up of recent developments in Post Falls, Pocatello, and Ketchum:
POST FALLS: The Panhandle border town of Post Falls has made renewable energy development a priority, according to a report by Coeur d’Alene Press writer Brian Walker.
“Aside from trying to exit the recession in one piece, sustainability projects will be high on our list this year,” the Press quoted City Administrator Eric Keck as saying. Post Falls believes solar and wind will soon become a part of its energy future, with solar PV on the City Hall roof and abundant wind resources on the nearby Rathdrum Prairie. The Press reports that former city engineer Bruce Noble, now a consultant, has submitted a proposal to study sites suitable for wind and solar sites: “The investment of approximately $15,000 places us on the road to be able to change the way we use and look at our energy consumption,” Keck said. “This proposal would be the initial step to help the city move toward a more conscious effort to save and actually produce our own clean sources of energy.”
Keck said once the city has the assessments in hand, it will approach its utility, Avista, and federal agencies to seek financial incentives. To read the full article, visit: http://www.cdapress.com/news/local_news/article_32a5bced-7881-5ac4-ab84-ca50eae4b999.html
POCATELLO: Idaho Falls TV station KIVI reported last week that the Pocatello Planning and Zoning Commission wants to figure out how to cut through bureaucratic snags to put up wind turbines in the city of Pocatello – a place where wind is often in abundant supply.
“If we really want to promote wind power in the city, which I believe we do, we need to make it easier for wind turbines to go in and delineate where they would be welcome and where they maybe would be inappropriate,” reporter Genevieve Judge quoted P&Z Chair Marjanna Hulet as saying. The only turbine in town is currently at the Pocatello Community Charter School, where school Dean Martha Martin said the wind generator is part of an “overall commitment to environmental education and teaching kids to be stewards of the natural world.”
So Hulet and the city’s planners are looking to revise the city’s 25-year-old code to see if it can be made more turbine-friendly. Bingham County just to the north has had more than 200 applications to erect wind turbines in the past year, KIVI reported. To read the full article, visit: http://www.localnews8.com/global/story.asp?s=11967702
KETCHUM: Also last week, the city of Ketchum began what may be a long process to create a green building code, according to Idaho Mountain Express writer Trevon Milliard.
“The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission is just hearing from Hailey and Blaine County, both of which have had committees working for about a year to investigate the kind of enforcement that can be done in requiring buildings to be more efficient, and what system would work best,” Milliard writes. Some problems have been identified with the “green codes,” including the use of using green building codes offering incentives for building more efficient buildings. For instance, the city of Hailey tried forgiving building permit fees and moving green building applications higher on the list for review, but so far no buildings have qualified, according to Milliard’s story.
As a result, the city is considering a mandatory higher efficiency requirement and a rating system, but that is still being explored. To read the full article, visit: http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005129988
II: Idaho Energy Lobby Day Another Success at Statehouse
A small army of volunteers fanned out across the Idaho Statehouse Monday as part of the annual Idaho Clean Energy Lobby Day, sponsored by the Idaho Energy Collaborative.
The lobbyists contacted more than half of the 105 House and Senate members, carrying a message that, despite the state’s ongoing budget crisis, lawmakers should still pursue cost-effective clean energy options – including full implementation of the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan.
“The Idaho Energy Collaborative brought 30 citizen lobbyists to the Legislature and we spoke with over half of the House members and 25 out of 35 Senators,” IEC Coordinator Liz Woodruff said. “Our displays and information packets were well received and we successfully bridged the gap between our elected officials and the views of their constituents who are eager to see policy change that advances energy efficiency and renewable energy in Idaho.”
While there are only a handful of energy bills so far in this cash-strapped session, the energy advocates pressed legislators to take further steps toward implementing the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan and provided them with fresh information about the potential for new energy efficiency and renewable energy resources in Idaho.
The Idaho Energy Collaborative is a group of more than 20 nonprofit, green business, government agency, and other clean energy advocates working to promote sustainable energy policies at the state and local levels in Idaho. For more information, contact Liz Woodruff at (208) 344-9161.ergy Collaborative is an action-oriented group of over 20 non-profit organizations. We work to promote energy efficiency and conservation and develop renewable energy resources throughout Idaho.
III: NW Energy Coalition’s New ‘Energy Works’ Site
The NW Energy Coalition has unveiled its new “Efficiency Works” web site, a gold mine for anyone interested in exploring energy efficiency issues in all sectors.
The new site features a variety of energy efficiency case studies; resources for efficiency policy advocates, policy-makers and regulators; news and events; and an efficiency blog to keep the conversation going.
Spread the word and check it out at www.efficiencyworks.org
IV: Idaho Power Reminds Customers of Assistance Options
Idaho Power this week issued the following notice to its customers, many of whom are confronting rising power bills – as are all customers of our region’s gas and electric utilities. We’re passing it along because you or people you know might not be aware of some of the bill-pay assistance options available. Please share the information as appropriate:
February 16, 2010
Payment Assistance Options For Customers
As you read in last week’s Update, many Idaho Power customers have received higher-than-normal bills this winter. Reasons for this include:
• colder weather causing increased usage
• a Feb. 1, 2009 increase in general base rates increase in the power and fixed cost adjustments and the energy efficiency rider, and
• the first full winter of a tiered-rate structure similar to that of the summer months.
The continuing depressed economy and increased jobless rate, coupled with these high bills, has resulted in more—and different—customers having trouble paying for service. Idaho Power does everything it can to help customers who are feeling this impact. Letting them know about energy assistance options available to them today remains an important component of our customer service.
Customers struggling to pay their winter energy bills may be eligible to receive assistance from two programs: the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Project Share.
Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
LIHEAP is a federally funded program for qualified households. The program provides a one-time benefit (per program year) to assist with heating costs in the winter. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on a number of factors including household size and income. Customers can find out if they qualify for Energy Assistance by contacting the social service agency nearest them. To find the nearest agency, go to www.idahopower.com/energyassistance and click on “City” under “Agency Locations.”
Finding an agency either way is quick and confidential. Agency information also is included in all reminder and final notices mailed to customers November through February.
Project Share is a valuable community service providing voluntary contributions to individuals and families needing help paying their electric, natural gas, propane, oil or firewood bills. Idaho Power started Project Share in 1982 and the company and its customers have actively supported our communities through the program for almost three decades. The program is administered by The Salvation Army.
Customers who need help paying energy bills should contact The Salvation Army or go to www.idahopower.com/energyassistance and click on “City” under “Agency Locations.”
We are sensitive to the impacts this extended downturn is having across our communities and strive to demonstrate understanding in many ways, including through charitable giving by our IDACORP Foundation. IDACORP recently elected to contribute an additional $75,000 to Project Share, on top of $25,000 donated in December. Every penny of this donation will be sent to The Salvation Army.
“Idaho Power is a valuable partner in the Project Share Program,” said Captain John Stennett, Salvation Army Boise Corps officer and Treasure Valley coordinator. “The extra contribution this year will help Project Share provide assistance to even more people facing tough times. Company shareowners have made these kinds of extra contributions twice before in the past 10 years, and each time it made a huge difference for folks needing a hand.”
Weatherization Assistance Program
In addition to LIHEAP and Project Share, Idaho Power customers also may benefit from free weatherization of electrically heated homes offered to qualified customers. Idaho and Oregon Community Action Partnership (CAP) agencies administer this program with financial assistance from Idaho Power.
Weatherization improvements enable residents to maintain a more comfortable, safe, and energy efficient home while reducing their monthly electricity consumption. Improvements are available at no cost to qualifying applicants who own or rent their homes. These customers also receive educational materials and efficiency ideas for further reducing energy use in their homes.
Local CAP agencies determine program eligibility according to the same federal and state guidelines used to determine eligibility for energy assistance.
Energy assistance and weatherization program brochures are available for free download at www.idahopower.com/energyassistance.
In addition, Budget Pay can help customers keep electricity bills manageable all year long. With this payment plan electricity charges are spread out evenly over a 12-month period, avoiding highs and lows in billing so customers know how much they owe each month.
This service is available to all residential customers with current accounts and no past-due amounts owed. To see if an account qualifies and to sign up for Budget Pay, register to become an Account Manager at www.idahopower.com.
V: Avista Seeks Conservation Hike for Gas Customers
Avista Corp. is asking regulators in Idaho and Washington state to approve an increase in its natural gas energy efficiency tariffs, which if granted by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission would mean an increase of about $1.50 a month for the company’s north Idaho gas customers. The utility is not seeking an increase in its existing efficiency tariff for its electric customers.
Avista said the increase is needed to accommodate growing demand in Idaho and Washington for natural gas conservation programs. The company said it issued almost 35,000 rebates and incentives worth $18.1 million to customers in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
To review Avista’s application to the Idaho PUC as well as supporting documents and its press release, go to www.puc.state.id.us and then to “File Room” and then “Gas Cases” and find AVU-G-10-02.
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Feb. 22 and March 1, 8 and 15. 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: Memorial opposes cap & trade; municipals could bond for new generation
The House Energy Committee today approved a memorial by Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, that puts the Legislature on record as telling Congress it opposes any form of carbon “cap and trade” legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee introduced a revised version of a bill by Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, that would allow Idaho cities that have their own power systems to negotiate new long-term power contracts with the likes of the Bonneville Power Administration without a public vote, and to issue revenue bonds to finance their own new generation, transmission, and distribution improvements.
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 inspections, local government jurisdiction H0501
Municipal electric systems, authorized indebtedness HJR003
Renewable energy projects, expedite permits S1273
School energy system, construction, sale, bonds S1354
Municipal electric systems, authorized indebtedness HJR003
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: Approved by Senate; awaiting final House approval.
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 (HJM011):
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 the House Energy, Environment and Technology Committee 2/16 and sent to the full House.
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 hearing in Senate State Affairs.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Monty Pearce and Rep. Lawerence Denney.
Municipal Utilities (HRJ003 – Note: Number may change after bill is reprinted)
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: Re-introduced by House Revenue and Taxation Committee 2/16 and will be referred to House State Affairs.
Sponsor(s): Rep. Fred Wood and Sen. Joe Stegner.