Idaho Energy Update
Aug. 7, 2009
There’s still time to go online and join more than 1,000 clean energy advocates who have signed a petition encouraging adoption of key provisions of the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan. Meantime, the developer of a proposed nuclear reactor on the Snake River south of Mountain Home says he’s impatient with delays in Elmore County and is considering taking his project elsewhere. And the PUC has opened a case to consider rates paid by utilities to small power producers, while it also signed off on an Idaho Power contract to buy a power from a Magic Valley dairy digester.
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: Online Petition Encourages Enactment of 2007 Idaho Energy Plan
More than 1,000 people signed a petition during the recent Idaho Green Expo to urge Idaho officials to enact key recommendations of the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan, but it’s not too late to sign, now that the petition is on-line.
The Legislature overwhelmingly passed the Energy Plan in its 2007 session, but many of the more than 40 recommendations have not been implemented – or have been implemented only in small part. Some of the plan’s recommendations can be implemented by the Legislature, some by the Public Utilities Commission, and some by the governor’s office and other state agencies. The petition reads:
“We the people of the state of Idaho, in order to ensure our long-term energy security and independence, request all state agencies, regulatory bodies and our elected officials demonstrate a commitment to the Idaho Energy Plan through expeditious implementation of its recommendations and a demonstrated effort to keep the plan current. We ask the Idaho Legislature to place the high priority on policies and actions promoting conservation, efficiency, and clean renewable energy expansion during the upcoming 2010 session.”
The petition, along with a link to the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan, has been posted on the Greenworks Idaho website and can be found at http://www.greenworksidaho.org/petition.asp
Visitors can also learn more about Greenworks Idaho, a broad-based coalition of businesses, organizations, and others dedicated to promoting sustainable energy policies in Idaho.
II: Elmore Nuke Developer Says He May Hit the Road Again
The would-be developer of a nuclear reactor on the Snake River says he’s growing impatient in obtaining needed Elmore County rezoning and other blessings and is now entertaining offers from undisclosed counties and even the state of Idaho to take his reactor elsewhere.
“Elmore County’s delay has created a friendly competition for our plant,” Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., CEO Don Gillispie said in a news release issued Thursday. “We are now looking at two additional sites outside of the current county that may actually receive local approval before the existing site.” AEHI’s release also says: “AEHI is pleased to announce several Idaho counties and the state have recently offered lands for AEHI’s nuclear plant following delays in local approval and the current site in Elmore County.” The company isn’t saying which counties or who in state government are making the land offer for the reactor.
The announcement comes just 15 months after AEHI left its original site on C.J. Strike Reservoir in Owyhee County and moved upstream to Elmore County, where the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended the needed rezone for the plant be rejected because it violates the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The County Commission failed to address the issue, kicking it back to the planners and delaying any consideration indefinitely and drawing AEHI’s ire.
The Snake River Alliance, Idaho’s nuclear watchdog and clean energy advocate, responded to AEHI’s announcement with skepticism: “Mr. Gillispie’s one-man Nuclear Vaudeville Act is beyond tiresome,” Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley said. “He told the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission he’d file his reactor application by the end of this year, and there’s no way that will happen. He has no money and little prospect of getting any. He has no plant design. He has no land. He has absolutely no chance of building a reactor in Elmore County or anywhere else in Idaho. I’m sure his not-so-veiled threat to Elmore County will endear him to officials charged with protecting the county’s environment and precious agricultural heritage.”
The Alliance also checked Thursday with the Idaho Department of Lands, which verified it did not extend an offer to sell or lease lands to AEHI for its reactor.
III: PUC to Examine Rates for Smaller Energy Producers
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has opened a case to review the way rates are set for utilities that purchase power from small energy generators.
At issue are rates set under the 1978 Public Utility Regulated Policy Act (PURPA), which was enacted in response to the energy crisis in the 1970s and which was designed in part to spur development of small renewable energy generation. PURPA requires electric utilities to buy power from small power producers that have “qualifying facilities” (QF) status. A key threshold for small QFs is 10MW, which is one reason many Idaho wind projects sign contracts to deliver no more than 10MW, or that anything more than that is not paid for by the utility. The rate paid to the QF power producers of 10MW or less is generally based on an “avoided cost” – or the incremental cost the utility would have to bear if it generated that power itself or purchased it from the market.
Currently, the “avoided cost” rate for QFs smaller than 10MW is based on the estimated costs the utility would face if it built a natural gas generator. In opening this case, the PUC said: “Based on recent filings at the Commission by Idaho’s electric utilities, we are concerned that a disparity exists between Idaho’s published avoided cost rate established using a natural gas-fired surrogate resource and the cost to a utility of developing and operating its own wind generation project.”
The PUC wants Idaho’s three regulated utilities (Avista, Idaho Power, and Rocky Mountain Power) and any other interested parties to comment on whether the avoided cost rates need to be changed, and if so how.
To review the PUC notice, visit www.puc.state.id.us and go to “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to GNR-E-09-03.
IV: PUC Approves Idaho Power Purchase of Digester Energy
As expected and reported here last week, the Public Utilities Commission has signed off on an agreement between Idaho Power and Cargill Environmental Finance under which the utility will buy power from a dairy anaerobic digester near Jerome in Gooding County. The generator is a small power production facility (QF, see above) under PURPA (see above).
Cargill Environmental Finance is building the Bettencourt B6 Anaerobic Digester, which is expected to provide add up to 2MW of electricity to Idaho Power. That’s roughly enough to power 1,300 homes. The fuel source is animal waste from the Bettencourt Dairy, which is then converted into biogas for generation.
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Aug. 10, 17, 24, and 31. 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 Idaho Legislature’s Interim Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee is scheduled to hold what may be its only meeting between legislative sessions on Sept. 1 and 2 in Room 204 of the Capital Annex. And agenda will be posted closer to the meeting.
►Idaho Power will resume its Integrated Resource Plan development process with a meeting of the Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Committee on Sept. 17. The planning process was recessed last spring and the Public Utilities Commission granted Idaho Power an extension until the end of the year in light of delays on a key Idaho-Oregon transmission line and the need to update the company’s forecasts in light of the current recession. The meetings are open to the public and are held at Idaho Power’s Boise’s headquarters. For more information on the IRP, visit: http://www.idahopower.com/AboutUs/PlanningForFuture/irp/2009/default.cfm