Idaho Energy Update
November 6, 2009
Two Idaho industrial giants and two small electric co-ops received good news from the federal government, with JR Simplot and Amalgamated Sugar receiving stimulus funds for energy efficiency projects, while Fall River Rural Electric and Kootenai Electric landing interest free renewable energy bonds for new generation projects. Meanwhile, the Idaho PUC is taking comments on Idaho Power’s latest wind contract and Avista’s north Idaho gas customers will see some major rate relief. And Boise’s U.S. Geothermal now has a construction permit for its Neal Hot Springs project northwest of Boise in Oregon. 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: More Energy Money Comes to Idaho
In separate announcements, the U.S. Departments of Energy and Treasury said recently two Idaho businesses and two electric cooperative utilities have received funds to expand energy efficiency and renewable energy operations.
This week, the Department of Energy awarded a total of $350,000 in federal energy stimulus funds to a pair of Idaho agricultural industries for energy efficiency projects. Amalgamated Sugar Co. received a grant for a feasibility study for a pair of combined heat and power (CHP) gas projects at its Nampa facility. If the project is eventually built, it would generate 100 megawatts of power – enough for about 60,000 homes – and allow the company to cease burning coal for its energy needs, helping to clear the Treasure Valley’s notoriously dirty air.
JR Simplot Co. will use its stimulus energy grant money for energy efficiency improvements at its facilities in Pocatello, Aberdeen, Nampa and Caldwell. The efficiency improvements will save enough electricity and natural gas to power 56,000 homes. Both companies provided matching funds to obtain the stimulus cash.
Meanwhile, the Department of Treasury announced another round of Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) for 805 recipients around the country, including the Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative on the Henry’s Fork in Chester and the Kootenai Electric Cooperative in Coeur d’Alene. Fall River will be using its $15 million CREBs to help finance a hydropower project, and Kootenai Electric will be using its $7 million in CREBs for a biomass project. This round of Clean Renewable Energy Bonds is funded by two pieces of federal legislation, including this year’s stimulus package. CREBs are designed to help government agencies, tribes, public power providers and cooperative electric companies obtain interest-free or low-interest loans for clean energy development projects. The bonds allow investors to receive federal tax credits in lieu of the payment of a portion of the interest on the bond, and for CREBs, the federal tax credits cover 70 percent of the interest on the bonds. This latest round of CREBs allocation amounted to $2.2 billion to more than 800 recipients.
Very few Idaho entities to date have sought or received the low-interest bonds, but under the Obama administration funding for the CREBs program has been significantly expanded.
II: PUC Taking Comments on Idaho Power’s Latest Wind Purchase
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission said this week it is taking public comments through Nov. 25 on a proposed sales agreement between Idaho Power and Meridian-based Idaho Winds LLC, which plans to build the Sawtooth Wind Project six miles northwest of Glenns Ferry in Elmore County.
The project has a “name plate” or maximum generation capacity, of 21 megawatts, but is expected to deliver less than 10 average megawatts on a monthly basis to Idaho Power. Idaho Winds expects to begin delivering energy to Idaho Power by the end of 2012.
This project is considered a “qualifying facility” under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA), which requires utilities to offer to buy power from such small generators at a rate that’s the same as what the utility would spend if it had to produce the power itself or buy it elsewhere.
For information about this project or Idaho Power’s application, visit www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-09-25. You can also submit comments from the PUC’s main web page, or by ailing them to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, 83720-0074 or faxing them to (208) 334-3762.
III: Avista Gas Rates Take 22 Percent Dive
Northern Idaho customers of Avista Utilities can thank abundant natural gas supplies and reduced demand for a 22 percent rate cut for Avista’s 70,000 northern Idaho gas customers.
The Idaho PUC said the reduction is large than that requested by Avista, which originally sought to spread the benefits as a refund to customers over two years just in case prices rise next year. The PUC said customers should receive the full benefit this year.
For a residential customer using 66 therms a month, this means a monthly reduction of about $16.44, or 21.93 percent. Large customers will see a cut of about 26 percent.
To review the PUC’s order or other filings in this case, visit www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and then “Gas Cases” and scroll to AVU-G-09-05.
IV: U.S. Geothermal Gets Construction Permit for Oregon Project
Boise-based U.S. Geothermal Inc. said this week it has received a conditional use permit from the Malheur County (OR) Planning Commission for its proposed 22 megawatt power plant at Neal Hot Springs just across the Idaho border in eastern Oregon, about 90 miles northwest of Boise.
“Approval of the conditional use permit is a key project milestone,” U.S. Geothermal President and CEO Daniel Kunz said in a news release. “We appreciate the continued support from Malheur County and the state of Oregon as we advance toward construction of the Neal Hot Springs geothermal power plant.” The company said it is awaiting a term sheet for a project loan from the U.S. Department of Energy for the $107 million Neal Hot Springs project, which the company expects to be online by the fourth quarter of 2011.
U.S. Geothermal, which also has a plant in Nevada, developed the West’s first commercial geothermal plant at Raft River in southeast Idaho, which is generating about 13MW of power for Idaho Power and also has a contract to provide Raft River electricity to the Eugene Water and Electric Board in Oregon.
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Nov. 9 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.
► Idaho Power’s Fall 2009 energy efficiency series winds down Monday with a session on how to get the most out a home’s “bonus room.” The session will be held at the Boise Public Library, which is a cosponsor, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the downtown library.
► 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 www.nwenergy.org
► Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power continue their community meetings 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. 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 www.gatewaywestproject.com