Idaho Energy Update
June 11, 2009
The Elmore County Commission is scheduled to vote Monday on a critical rezoning request by the would-be developer of a nuclear reactor atop the Snake River south of Mountain Home, and the applicant is already threatening to appeal the decision or petition for a ballot initiative if the decision doesn’t go his way. Also, the city of Boise has rolled out an impressive set of proposals on how to spend its $2 million in energy stimulus money, and Avista Utilities is asking the Public Utilities Commission to decide how renewable energy “green tags” should be handled.
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: Elmore County: Commissioners Set to Vote Monday on Nuke Plant Rezone
Elmore County Commissioners are scheduled to briefly discuss and then vote on a rezoning request by Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., the Virginia transplant that wants to build a nuclear reactor above the Snake River near Hammett.
Commissioners discussed the issue at length on June 8, but deferred a decision until some last-minute legal questions can be answered. Specifically, they want to know whether rezoning the land from its current agricultural use to heavy industrial would allow any heavy industrial project to be built there in the event AEHI kills the reactor project. At least two Commissioners appeared ready to vote earlier this week, but agreed to delay another week.
According to news reports and AEHI CEO Don Gillispie’s comments, it appears the rezoning would have been denied had the Commission voted Monday. But given two of the three Commissioners expressed serious reservations about the rezoning, Gillispie seems to be adopting a new and unprecedented strategy. Before waiting for the county’s decision, he issued a news release Wednesday threatening to appeal a denial or even trying to overturn it through a ballot initiative.
The Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission has already recommended the County Commission reject the rezoning request as a blatant violation of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which says any heavy industrial activities must be located in the county’s only heavy industrial zone – on Simco Road near the Ada County line and just outside Boise.
Monday’s meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the Commission meeting room at the Elmore County Courthouse at 150 S. Fourth E. in Mountain Home. The Commission will not be taking testimony from the public or the developer, but the public is invited to attend to hear the discussion. It’s a small meeting room and it’s certain to be pretty full, so arriving early is a good idea for those planning to attend.
II: Boise Prepares List of Energy Projects For Stimulus Grant
The Boise City Council agreed Wednesday on a list of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects it would like to fund with the $2 million it will receive through a stimulus package-funded block grant. The city has until June 25 to apply for the grant money. Here is a list of the projects as reported by the Idaho Statesman:
$5,300 to retrofit lighting at five city parks; $430,200 to build a cogeneration plant at the West Boise wastewater treatment facility; $43,700 to retrofit energy efficient lighting at 13 fire stations; $21,000 to adopt the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code; $210,000 to reimburse the city for connecting its geothermal system to the state’s Capitol Mall system; $400,000 for residential energy audits and follow-up measures; $446,300 to convert about 725 historic, 150-watt high-pressure sodium street lights to LEDs; $400,000 added to Boise’s Housing and Community Development energy retrofit revolving loan fund; $18,100 for the NeighborWoods city forester; $64,600 to install solar panels with net metering or hot water heating on city property.
Boise and a handful of other Idaho cities will receive a designated amount of money based on populations. Other cities are being invited to submit applications for additional funds that will be awarded on a competitive basis.
III: Avista Asks PUC To Decide Fate Of Green Tags
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is considering a request by Avista Utilities to rule on the disposition of green tags from smaller generation projects. Green tags, also known as renewable energy credits or RECs, are issued to power generators producing renewable energy. Utilities that purchase renewable energy don’t always receive the green tags, and those that don’t are not allowed to claim they’re providing “green” energy to their Idaho customers. That’s because, to avoid double-counting, only one entity can claim the credit for renewable energy coming from wind, geothermal or other sources. In addition, there’s a growing trading market for the tags as utilities strive to meet renewable energy requirements in many states.
So Avista, which serves portions of the Idaho Panhandle and eastern Washington, wants the PUC to determine who should get credit for the tags. Idaho Power was recently ordered by the Public Utilities Commission to sell some of its tags from an Oregon wind project and a southeast Idaho geothermal project, meaning that for now the utility can’t claim credit for that green power. Idaho Power had sought to retire the renewable credits so it could advertise that it’s buying green energy.
A number of smaller (10MW or less) energy producers are opposing Avista’s request. One, wind developer Exergy Development Group, told the PUC that the Legislature must create a green tag program for Idaho, and according to the PUC oral arguments are scheduled for 1 p.m. June 17 in Exergy’s motion to dismiss or delay Avista’s request. That will take place in the Commission’s hearing room at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise.
For more information on this case, go to: www.puc.idaho.gov and then “file room” and then “electric cases” and scroll to AVU-E-09-04.
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on June 15 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 Public Utilities Commission will also hold public hearings June 16 in Moscow and June 17 in Coeur d’Alene on Avista Utilities’ request for a rate increase. The PUC will also hold a technical hearing June 29 at its Boise headquarters hearing room at 472 W. Washington. Avista is seeking a 12.8 percent electric rate increase and a 3 percent gas rate hike. But it is also asking for a decrease in its annual electric power cost adjustment, which would lower the electric rate increase to 7.8 percent. Besides taking oral testimony at the public hearings, the PUC is also accepting written comments though July 1. To review the application and related documents, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then “file room” and then “electric cases” and scroll down to AVU-E-09-01.