Idaho Energy Update
October 30, 2009

Idaho Power this week snagged $47 million in federal energy stimulus funds to speed up deployment of its new high-tech meters and other “smart grid” technologies, while Avista received $20 million and the private Boise-based M2M Communications received $2.2 million to help California reduce peak demand problems with irrigation. And Ridgeline Energy, which is submitting a new application for a wind farm in Bingham County east of Blackfoot, received the green light for another big wind project in Power County south of American Falls. Also, the Blaine County School District is receiving $4 million from the DOE to help heat its schools with geothermal. And don’t forget to submit your comments on the Northwest Power Council’s 6th Power Plan! For more on these developments and others, please read on.

Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!


Ken Miller
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
(208) 344-9161
[email protected]

I: Idaho Power Scores $47 Million Stimulus Grant for Smart Grid Work

Idaho Power was awarded about $47 million in federal energy stimulus money to enhance its “smart grid” development and its deployment of about 450,000 digital meters across the utility’s service territory, which reaches across the southern part of the state from Oregon to Pocatello and Nevada up to about Riggins.

The money will come from $3.4 billion awarded this week by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, known generically as the stimulus program. Also receiving stimulus cash for smart grid work was Spokane-based Avista Utilities, which serves much of the Idaho Panhandle and which received $20 million as part of a $40 million project to implement a number of smart grid improvements; and Boise-based M2M Communications, which will receive $2.2 million as part of a $4 million project to install smart grid irrigation technologies in California to reduce peak demand in that state.

M2M President Steve Hodges told the Idaho Business Review the stimulus money will make it possible for the firm to hire 12 full-time workers in Idaho and 66 in California. “It’s pretty exciting,” Hodges told the newspaper. “It’s probably the most important thing that’s happened to us as a company. We didn’t need this to survive, but it’s a huge boon for us.”

As for Idaho Power, Idaho’s largest utility had already begun rolling out its “Advanced Metering Infrastructure” (AMI) in Idaho’s Treasure Valley and it anticipates replacing all of the old-style spinning meters in its sprawling service territory with new digital ones by 2011. The company had planned to implement the smart meter deployment in any case, after having been strongly urged to do so by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission and after receiving the PUC’s blessing to launch the program and begin receiving rate-making treatment for the expenses. The new meters will allow the company to collect customer use information without having to dispatch meter readers, but eventually will also allow the company to advise customers of different prices of electricity during different times of the day in an effort to reduce “peak demand” and shift customers’ consumption patterns to reduce the need for expensive new generation.

But installing the new meters is only the first step toward developing a smarter grid. Myriad other technologies are also integral to a grid that will eventually provide the ability for utilities to communicate with their customers in real time and equally important allow the grid and its managers to avoid transmission problems and solve them more quickly when they occur.

Nationwide, the federal smart grid grants will fund the installation of about 2.5 million automated digital meters and. The Electric Power Research Institute estimates the $3.4 billion in this latest round of energy grants could reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030, or a savings of $20.4 billion nationwide.

To learn more about Idaho Power’s smart meter program and to view a video showing how to read the new meters, visit:
And for information about M2M Communications, visit:

II: Power County Planners Approve Ridgeline Wind Farm

The Power County Planning and Zoning Commission has signed off on a proposal by Ridgeline Energy to build a wind farm between American Falls and Rockland. Ridgeline’s project drew a large crowd to the P&Z meeting Oct. 6, with some speakers objecting to the project’s aesthetic impacts and others backing the project for its positive economic impact in the lightly populated southeast Idaho county.

The Idaho State Journal quoted Ridgeline Energy Project Manager Jay Williams as saying the company is still working on agreements with landowners affected by the proposed 22,000-acre wind farm, and also that Power County will receive between $500,000 and $700,000 in tax revenues as well as other economic benefits. The newspaper also quoted Jim Mende from Idaho Fish and Game as praising Ridgeline’s cooperation with the state agency: “We can be assured that we can definitely minimize impacts.”

We reported two weeks ago that Ridgeline, which built Idaho’s first large wind farm at Wolverine Creek in the hills above Idaho Falls, is continuing its efforts to build a like-sized project south of there in Bingham County. Despite a glitch by Bingham County planners, Ridgeline will file a new application with Bingham County for a proposed 150-turbine project.

Back in Power County, the P&Z approved without dissent a special use permit that also requires Ridgeline to have a “demolition bond” in place. Turbine erections will likely begin in 2010.

III: Report: Blaine County Schools Receive $4 Million for Heating Project

The Twin Falls Times-News reports this week that the Blaine County School District will receive $4 million for a pilot project to warm its schools with geothermal heat as part of a U.S. Department of Energy geothermal grant program.

“District officials learned of approval of the matching funds grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as voters headed to the polls to vote on a $59.8 million plant facilities levy that included the money that would be used to match the grant,” Times-News reporter Karen Bossick wrote today. She then quoted District Administrative Assistant Kate Heinecke as saying, “This is a huge cause for celebration with the potential influx of $4 million into our schools, our community, and our economy.”

Blaine County’s grant is part of $338 million in federal energy stimulus fund grants announced Thursday by Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Bossick quoted Ketchum Environmental Resource Center Director Craig Barry as saying his group has pursued avenues to tap environmentally benign energy resources for years.

To review all of the grant recipients, visit the DOE site at:

IV: Rerun: Nov. 6 Is Deadline to Comment on Region’s Power Plan

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council wants to remind those of us in the Pacific Northwest that we can still comment on the Council’s important 6th Power Plan through November 6.

The Power Plan, developed every five years by the regional Council, is designed to show how the region will meet its future energy needs for the coming 20 years. This plan says we can meet almost all of our new electric demand over the next two decades with new clean energy – 85 percent of it energy efficiency. What the plan DOESN’T do is to show how the region can meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals set by all Northwest states except Idaho.

There’s still plenty of time to have your say and to influence how this important 6th Power Plan will turn out. You can find more information about the 6th Plan and how to comment at the NW Energy Coalition’s site at and at the Council’s site at

On The Agenda:

► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Nov. 2, 9 and 23. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at The meetings typically start at 1:30 p.m.

► Idaho Power’s Fall 2009 energy efficiency series resumes Monday with a session on saving power in the kitchen. The company’s sessions will be held at the Boise Public Library, which is a cosponsor, and run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the downtown library. Here’s the lineup:
– Nov. 2: Confessions of a Green Geek, which will feature a collection of self-styled energy geeks who will discuss their green lifestyles.
– Nov. 9: I Hate My Bonus Room, which will explore ways to maintain comfort in a room with five exposed surfaces.
For details and to register for the sessions, and for presentations and information from previous sessions elsewhere in Idaho and from last year, visit
Or call 388-6075.

► The NW Energy Coalition’s 2009 Fall Conference takes place Nov. 13 and 14 at the Best Western Executive Inn in Seattle. As usual, NWEC’s Conference is a must-attend for anyone interested in energy issues in the Pacific Northwest. This year’s conference features a keynote address by Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist for Microsoft. Friday’s panels will look at Energy Efficiency: Encouraging Utility Investment, as well as Energy Efficiency: Innovating Customer Outreach, and New Transmission and the Integration of Renewables and then an update on federal legislation. For more information, visit

► Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power will hold community meetings in Idaho and Wyoming beginning Nov. 4 in American Falls to present information and hear from residents about the utilities’ proposed Gateway West Transmission Line Project. The meetings run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and are scheduled for Nov. 4 at the American Falls Public Library; Nov. 5 at the Kemmerer, WY, High School; Nov. 9 at the Twin Falls Red Lion Hotel; Nov. 10 at the Mountain Home Junior High School; and Nov. 12 at the Kuna High School. Gateway West is the utilities’ proposed transmission line that would begin in Wyoming and cross southern Idaho to a yet-to-be-built substation in Owyhee County between Melba and Marsing. For more information on the project, visit