Idaho Energy Update
Feb. 27, 2009
Four more energy bills were introduced this week in what has become the busiest legislative session for energy issues in memory. Each of the bills deals in some way with promoting renewable energy in Idaho from solar panels on homes to building new renewable generation plants. Also, a measure to help provide more assistance to low-income utility customers cleared a big hurdle when it was easily approved by the Senate State Affairs Committee and was sent to the full Senate with a recommendation it be adopted. For information on these developments and others, please read on.
Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them my way!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Legislature: Bills Introduced to Promote Renewables
After a busy week last week, four more energy bills were introduced in the Idaho Legislature this week, and each is aimed at promoting renewable energy development from the generation level down to your home.
House Bills 208 and 209, both introduced by Sen. Elliot Werk, D- Boise, in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee this week, would exempt the value of renewable energy investments on residential property (H208) and non-residential property (H209) for purposes of calculating property taxes. The bills have no impacts to the state general fund – which this year is the acid test for any legislation before the House Tax Committee – and would likely have a net benefit as they would encourage more renewable energy investments on homes and businesses than would otherwise take place. The same House panel also agreed to introduce H203 by Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, to add various renewable energy resources to the existing law that subjects wind and geothermal projects to a 3 percent tax on their energy production rather than a property tax. Most counties endorse the idea, because it provides a more steady stream of tax revenues than the property tax, the collections from which are subject to decreases over time as the projects are depreciated. A fourth measure, H2000, was introduced by the House State Affairs and would allow the state Treasurer to invest state funds in bonds by the Idaho Energy Resources Authority at below-market rates. The measure would not cost the state, because any incremental loss in interest revenue from IERA bond investments would be made up by increased state sales, income, property, and production taxes from the renewable energy operations.
Also in the Legislature this week, supporters of S1119, a measure backed by Avista Corp. and Idaho’s low-income advocates and others, were delighted when the measure easily passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee with just two no votes and was sent to the Senate floor with a recommendation it be passed. It could be approved by the Senate as soon as Monday. And Senate Bill 1120, the “green schools” bill that was introduced a week ago by Senate State Affairs, was reintroduced today with a minor change that does not alter the bill’s substance.
Coming up on Monday, the Senate Resources Committee will hear a presentation on rural economic development and renewable energy on Monday. Also on Monday, the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee will hear a presentation from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Idaho Chapter, and the Senate State Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Monday on whether to extend the Legislature’s interim energy panel. Details on those meetings are below in the calendar section.
Each week, we 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 “Legislation” link and then “Legislative Topic Index of Bills” 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 Electricity” section currently looks like this, but the most recent bills have not yet been added to the list:
ELECTRICITY AND ELECTRICIANSELECTRICITY AND ELECTRICIANS
Electric facility construction, priority processing H0007 – Ch.9
Electrical apprentice registration, license, fees H0111
Energy facility construction, state siting panel S1027
Energy-efficient school building design S1120
Energy/environment/technology, legislative study comm HCR016
Lead acid battery sales, recycling, $10 fee H0170
Low-impact hydro energy tax credit H0209
Public utility ratemaking treatment, cost recovery S1123
Public utility, new facilities, charge customers H0052
Renewable energy device, homes, tax exempt H0208
Renewable energy projects, state funds investment H0200
Renewable energy, enterprise zones, tax incentives H0122
Renewable energy, operating property, producer tax H0203
Utility facilities relocation, public highway planning S1097
Utility rates, programs for low-income customers S1119
For Internet streaming of budget committee meetings and House and Senate floor sessions, go to http://idahoptv.org/leglive/. Meanwhile, here’s a look at the status of pending bills:
Priority Designation for Transmission Projects (H7)
Allows the Public Utilities Commission to designate certain transmission projects as “priority” for purposes of expediting review by state agencies. Such request would be made by developer of the transmission project. The bill wouldn’t affect local siting decision-making by counties and other government entities, nor would it affect existing federal review of transmission projects.
Status: Approved by the House 69-0-1 and on Feb. 12 by the Senate 31-0-4 and signed into law by the governor.
Sponsor: Office of Energy Resources Director Paul Kjellander
Energy Facility Siting (S1027)
Sets up a process for state review of applications for siting and expansion of major energy facilities (50MW or more) in Idaho. The bill sets up procedures to create a siting authority and the process by which developers of energy projects would seek state approval for construction. Similar Democratic efforts to create a state “siting authority” for energy projects have failed in past legislative sessions.
Status: Introduced in the Senate on Friday, Jan. 23. Hearing yet to be scheduled in Senate State Affairs, where it is not expected to receive a hearing.
Sponsors: Sens. Elliot Werk, Kate Kelly, Les Bock, Nicole LeFavour, Diane Bilyeu, Richard Sagness, and Jon Thorson.
One-Time Connection Charges (H52)
Allows the Public Utilities Commission to set one-time hook-up fees for new customers to recover some of the costs of investments needed to provide power to those customers. The “non-recurring charges” are designed to avoid having existing utility customers foot the bill to provide services to new customers.
Status: Introduced in House State Affairs and awaiting hearing in that committee.
Sponsors: Rep. Bert Stevenson
Interim Energy Committee Renewal (HCR16)
Extends joint House-Senate Interim Energy, Environment and Technology Committee for 2009. Key issues before the interim committee will be reviewing the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan to determine how to implement its recommendations, few of which have been acted upon.
Status: Introduced by House Environment, Energy and Technology on Feb. 12, approved by the House and set for hearing in Senate State Affairs at 8 a.m. Monday, March 2.
Sponsor: Rep. George Eskridge
Renewable Energy Enterprise Zones (H122)
Would authorize the Public Utilities Commission to designate up to 20 Renewable Energy Enterprise Zones around the state. Also includes a suite of income and property tax incentives to encourage development of renewable energy projects, including anaerobic digesters, biomass, wood waste, wind, solar, geothermal, and low-impact hydro.
Status: Introduced in House Revenue and Taxation on Feb. 12 and held in committee at the request of the sponsor – killing the measure.
Sponsor: Office of Energy Resources Director Paul Kjellander.
Low-Income Energy Assistance (S1119)
Would allow utilities to request the PUC to approve low-income bill payment assistance and other programs that gas and electric utilities voluntarily propose to help low-income customers. The programs are completely voluntary on the part of the utilities and would be subject to rate filing procedures and public review and comment.
Status: Approved by the Senate State Affairs Committee and sent to the full Senate, where it could be approved as soon as Monday.
Sponsor: Neil Colwell, Avista Corporation
Energy Efficient Schools (S1120)
Creates a voluntary incentive to encourage school districts to build more energy efficient school buildings by using the design and construction practices of integrated design and fundamental commissioning. The incentive forgives the school district requirement to provide annual matching maintenance funds for the qualifying school building. There is state budget impact, as the funds are already provided by the state general fund to the respective school district.
Status: Introduced in the Senate State Affairs Committee, and a replacement bill was introduced in that committee today. It has not yet been assigned a new bill number.
Sponsor: Sen. Curt McKenzie
Utility Project Financing (S1123)
Would allow utilities to apply to the Public Utilities Commission for the PUC to acknowledge the capital expenses for a project such as a transmission or generation facility before the utility embarks on expensive construction project. Supporters say the bill would provide some assurance that the project will eventually be paid for by ratepayers and attract investors. Opponents say the blessing of a project before it’s built would tie the hands of future Commissions. The process would be voluntary for utilities.
Status: Introduced in the Senate State Affairs Committee Feb. 20 and awaiting a hearing.
Sponsor: Sen. Curt McKenzie
Idaho Energy Resources Authority Bonds (H200)
Would authorize the State Treasurer to purchase bonds a below-market rates from the Idaho Energy Resources Authority (IERA) to encourage development of certain renewable energy projects (not including wind or solar) in Idaho. The identified renewables include cop residues, food or animal waste, landfill gases, wood waste, or geothermal energy.
Status: Introduced Feb. 23 and referred to House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee.
Sponsor: Ronald Williams, Williams Bradbury Attorneys at Law
Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Devices on Residences (H208)
Exempts the value of renewable energy devices such as solar panels or heat pumps on residential property for purposes of calculating property taxes. The measure would have no negative impact on the state budget, and would not impact county tax collections inasmuch as it would allow homeowners simply to install renewable energy equipment and not have that value added to the value of the property for tax reasons.
Status: Introduced in House Revenue and Taxation Feb. 26 and awaiting hearing.
Sponsor: Sen. Elliot Werk
Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Devices (H209)
Exempts value of renewable energy devices on property other than residences for purposes of calculating property taxes. To qualify for the exemption, the renewable energy (such as solar power) cannot be sold, but must be used by the property or provided back to the utility. As with H208, the measure would have no negative impact on the state budget, but could have a net benefit as it would encourage equipment sales that might not otherwise take place.
Status: Introduced in House Revenue and Taxation Feb. 26 and awaiting hearing.
Sponsor: Sen. Elliot Werk
Adding More Renewables to Current Law Providing Production Tax (H203)
Following on similar measures dealing with wind and geothermal resources in prior sessions, this bill would simply add most other forms of renewable energy to existing law that replaces property taxes assessed on renewable energy projects with a 3 percent gross production tax. The measure has no state general fund impacts, and earlier measures have been endorsed by counties because they provide a more consistent revenue stream from renewable projects over time.
Status: Introduce in House Revenue and Taxation Feb. 26 and awaiting hearing.
Sponsor: Rep. Wendy Jaquet
II: NW Power and Conservation Council Sets Agenda for Boise Meeting
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s March meeting will be in Boise, and its agenda includes discussions on everything from energy conservation, geothermal energy development, and of course fish and wildlife issues in the Pacific Northwest. The meeting will take place March 10-11 at The Grove Hotel.
The Council meeting will begin with Tuesday sessions of the Fish Committee at 9:30 a.m. in the Evergreen Room and the Power Committee at 8:30 a.m. in the Aspen Room. The full Council will meet at 1 p.m. in the Evergreen Room. On Wednesday, the meeting resumes at 9 a.m. in the Evergreen Room with reports from those two committees, followed by discussions on such things as the economic downturn’s impact on Bonneville Power Administration, BPA’s smart grid pilot project, the status of the Council’s much anticipated 6th Power Plan, and other issues. To review the full agenda for the Boise meeting and also to review documents related to the agenda items, go to www.nwppc.org and click on the “meetings” link. We highly recommend visiting the agenda and its links for those interested in tracking regional energy and fish and wildlife issues.
III: Idaho Power Transmission Projects Meeting on March 18
The Northwest Environmental Business Council is sponsoring a technical meeting, “An Update on Idaho Power’s Transmission Line Projects,” from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 18 at The Watercooler on 1401 W. Idaho St. in Boise. Admission is free, but RSVPs are requested. You can find a link to the event and more information about NEBC by visiting the Council at www.nebc.org.
Idaho Power VP of Delivery Engineering and Operations Lisa Grow will be on hand to discuss the utility’s plans for transmission line projects in the coming year. The event is sponsored by TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering, Inc.
On The Agenda:
► The Senate Resources and Environment Committee will hear a presentation on “Rural Economic Development thru Renewable Energy” by Rich Rayhill of Ridgeline Energy at 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 2, in Room 204 of the Capitol Annex.
►The House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee hears a presentation from Dennis Cunningham of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Idaho Chapter at 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 2, in Room 145 of the Capitol Annex.
► The Senate State Affairs Committee holds a hearing at 8 a.m. Monday, March 2, in Room 204 of the Annex on HCR16, which would extend the Interim Energy and Environment Committee into 2009 to consider various energy issues, including implementation of the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan.
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on March 2, 9, and 16. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us.
► The NW Power and Conservation Council holds its March meeting in Boise at the Grove Hotel on March 10-12. The agenda has been posted at www.nwppc.org See above.