Idaho Energy Update
October 9, 2009
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council takes its draft 6th Power Plan road show to Idaho next week for public hearings on the 20-year plan in Boise and Idaho Falls. Also, the Public Utilities Commission says it will be taking public comments through Dec. 8 on Avista Utilities biannual integrated resource plan, while the PUC has also accepted a settlement to allow PacifiCorp and its Rocky Mountain Power subsidiary in Idaho to adjust rates every year to reflect changes in natural gas and hydro fuel costs. And Boise State University has received a $4.9 million Department of Energy grant to lead a multi-university consortium developing a national geothermal data system for energy interests, policy-makers and the public. For more on these developments and others, please read on.
Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Power Council Takes 6th Power Plan Draft to Idaho Next Week
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s public hearing road show on its Draft 6th Power Plan comes to Idaho next week, with a hearing in Boise on Tuesday and in Idaho Falls on Wednesday.
The federally chartered Power Council creates plans every five years to serve as roadmaps on how the Bonneville Power Administration and the four Northwest states can meet future electricity needs. The draft 6th Plan now out for public review says energy efficiency can meet 58 percent of the region’s new power demands in the next five years, and 85 percent of the Northwest’s load growth over the next two decades. The balance of the region’s electricity needs can be met through renewable energy, primarily wind, the plan says.
While the draft plan contains laudable recommendations on the region’s energy efficiency capacity, clean-energy advocates remain concerned the plan falls short in outlining how the region will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, it maps a course to stabilize those emissions, while three of the four states (Idaho is not included) have already set goals to reduce those emissions. Reducing CO2 emissions will necessitate reducing our reliance on coal plants, which account for one-fourth of our electricity but 90 percent of our electric emissions. While it is true that the Council cannot direct the decommissioning of the region’s dirty coal-fired power plants, it can demonstrate leadership by recommending states prepare for inevitable federal carbon controls and by factoring environmental costs of coal power into its recommendations – as required by the Council’s federal governing statute.
The Boise hearing will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the JR Williams Bldg at 700 W. State Street (north of the Capitol). The Idaho Falls hearing will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies at 995 University Blvd. The first hour in Idaho Falls will allow for informal interaction with Council staff and members. In addition to commenting at the public hearings, the public can submit written comments to the Council via the website below.
For more information visit the Council’s web site at www.nwppc.org and also the NW Energy Coalition’s site at www.nwenergy.org
II: BSU to Lead National Geothermal Data System
Boise State University will lead a consortium that will use a $4.9 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to establish the National Geothermal Data System at BSU to coordinate geothermal research and development.
“The interest in geothermal is just ratcheting up,” BSU geosciences professor and NGDS director Walter Snyder said. “More than a database, the NGDS will be a data system because it requires an incredibly broad range of data types and has to deliver information in a format that’s useful to the public, schools, researchers, industry, financial institutions, state and federal agencies, and state and federal lawmakers.”
Other partners in the Geothermal Data Consortium include the University of Utah (Energy & Geosciences Institute), Oregon Institute of Technology (Geo-Heat Center), Stanford University (Stanford Geothermal Program), University of Nevada, Reno (Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy), and the Geoscience Information Network led by the Arizona Geological Survey.
The new project was made possible by new funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus bill.
III: PUC Opens Comment Period on Avista Integrated Resource Plan
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission said this week it will take public comments on Spokane-based Avista Utilities’ recently filed integrated resource plan (IRP) through Dec. 8. Avista serves about 115,000 retail electric and gas customers in northern Idaho, as well as additional customers in eastern Washington.
Idaho’s regulated electric utilities are required to file their IRPs, which serve as roadmaps to how they will meet future load growth, every other year. Avista’s IRP, which was filed with the PUC Aug. 31, projects the utility will begin running short on energy by 2018, and that it will need additional conservation and efficiency, as well as renewable energy additions and gas-fired generation in the coming 20 years.
To review the IRP and for more information, visit www.puc.idaho.gov and click “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to AVU-E-09-09.
IV: PacifiCorp’s Rates Will be Adjusted Every Year
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission said this week that rates for customers of Rocky Mountain Power, the PacifiCorp subsidiary that serves Idaho, will be adjusted every April 1 to account for fluctuating power supply costs. In a news release, the PUC said it accepted a negotiated settlement between the company and stakeholders that calls for Rocky Mountain Power’s “energy cost adjustment mechanism” (ECAM) to either increase or decrease each year, depending on the utility’s power supply expenses such as fuel.
The PUC noted an increasing share of PacifiCorp’s generation is coming from natural gas, which is subject to big swings in prices, and hydropower, which is subject to swings due to the water years and amount of precipitation.
“The commission finds that the designed ECAM will send better price signals to the company’s customers of the cost of power by adjusting their rates on a more current basis,” the PUC said. It also said that staying more current with these power supply adjustments should mean full-blown rate cases will not need to be filed as frequently as in the past. The more frequent recovery of fuel expenses could also benefit the company and its customers by being able to finance investments at lower rates, since it is able to recover power supply costs more quickly than in the past.
For more information on this case and to review the PUC order, visit www.puc.idaho.gov and then click “File Room” and hen “Electric Cases” and scroll to PAC-E-08-08.
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Oct. 19, and 26. 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 Bureau of Land Management has scheduled three public information meetings to provide an update on the proposed Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI) project. NorthWestern Energy has applied to BLM and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for permits to build a 500-kilovolt transmission line from the vicinity of Townsend, MT., to an existing substation near Jerome, ID. BLM is considering three alternative routes as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. The Idaho hearings will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the PBG Event Center in Blackfoot and Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the Aberdeen Elementary School in Aberdeen. For more information, visit www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/prog/lands_realty/projects.htm
► The Idaho Environmental Forum’s next session will be Oct. Sept. 26 and will focus on salmon and hydropower issues in the Pacific Northwest. “The Obama Administration’s New Take on Salmon and Federal Hydropower: Real Progress or More of the Same” will be held from noon to about 1:15, with a lunch buffet beginning at 11:30 a.m. Speakers include Norm Semanko, executive director and general counsel at the Idaho Water Users Association; Bert Bowler, founder of Snake River Salmon Solutions; and Bill McDonald, director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Region. For more information and to register, visit http://www.idahoenvironmentalforum.org/Upcoming%20Sessions.html