Idaho Energy Update
Dec. 12, 2008
Idaho’s nomad nuclear reactor is languishing in Elmore County, where the Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended that the County Commission reject Alternate Energy Holdings’ bid to rezone 1,300 acres of prime Snake River farmland to heavy industrial for its nuclear reactor scheme.
Meanwhile, our Idaho Caucus had a GREAT meeting in Portland last weekend at the NW Energy Coalition fall conference and board meeting. We had a wonderful turnout and a good conversation on all things energy in Idaho. And we have a number of PUC issues in front of us that need your attention, including the Idaho Power rate case and the disposition of IPC’s SO2 allowance sales.
Also, don’t miss Arjun Makhijani’s presentation to the Boise City Club. The link to his presentation is below.
For details on these and other developments, 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: Elmore County Commission to Take Up Nuke Plant Feb. 4
The Elmore County Commission has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 4 to hear testimony and review the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation that a rezoning application by Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., for a proposed nuclear reactor project be rejected as a violation of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
Details on the logistics for the Feb. 4 meeting have not been released by the county. However, it’s expected the County Commission will hear all testimony for and against AEHI’s request on that day. As we reported in October, the P&Z Commission voted 4-2 to recommend against the rezoning request sought by AEHI on multiple grounds, including that it violates the county’s growth plan by injecting a heavy industrial use into the heart of Elmore County’s agricultural lands. While the P&Z’s record is an air-tight case against approval of the rezoning for the nuclear plant, the County Commission is not bound by it and could reach a different conclusion.
We’ll keep you posted on the time of the meeting, and on how you can participate.
II: Idaho Caucus Meet in Portland a BIG Success! NWEC Comes to Boise in Spring
Congratulations and a huge thanks to all who made it to the NW Energy Coalition’s Fall Conference and Board meeting – and to the NWEC Idaho Caucus meeting on Saturday.
The Idaho Caucus meeting was a great opportunity to discuss all things energy in Idaho, and everyone came with terrific ideas. A special shout out to Mike Heckler, Wendy Eklund, Pat Ford, Ric Gale, Suzanne Leta Liou, Betsy Bridge, Andrea Shipley and Patricia O’Donnell for participating in a spirited discussion on Idaho energy issues. We covered everything from the new Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free campaign in Idaho to the state of Idaho’s green jobs training, how to address wind siting issues in our state, and the myriad regulatory issues Idaho Power is working on with the Public Utilities Commission.
Also, the NW Energy Coalition will be coming to Boise for its spring conference and Board meeting. We expect it will take place the last weekend of May, but you’ll be hearing a lot more about that meeting and the exact dates very soon.
III: More Wind in Idaho Falls? City Utility Explores New Project
The city of Idaho Falls is expected to embrace a new wind project I conjunction with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) outside of Idaho Falls, according to the Idaho Falls Post-Register. The newspaper reported this week that a recent feasibility study between UAMPS and the city-owned utility in Idaho Falls envisions a new wind farm on 6,500 acres off Kepps Crossing Road in the foothills east of Idaho Falls, and that the wind farm would include 50 or more turbines generating 80-plus MW of electricity, with Idaho Falls taking about 2MW of the new power and the rest being marketed by UAMPS.
The project’s development will depend on whether other UAMPS utilities can commit to purchasing the additional generation. If it does, the target for completion of the project is sometime in 2010.
IV: Ratepayer Concerns Loom Large for Idaho Utilities
Idaho newspapers are abrim with news about how consumers are struggling to make ends meet when it comes to paying their power bills. Mike Butts reports in the Idaho Press-Tribune today that Idaho Power officials are reporting a growing number of customers having trouble paying their bills. Here’s what he had to say:
Economy could leave some utility customers in the cold
Friday, December 12th, 2008
TREASURE VALLEY — Idaho Power officials said Wednesday they have seen a recent increase in the number of customers having difficulty paying their electric bills or having their power shut off. A spokesman for Intermountain Gas said his utility’s customers could also face increased challenges paying their heating bills this winter.
The coming colder months coupled with poor economic conditions could make those problems worse.
Most households in Southern Idaho use gas for heating. But many rural customers still use electric heating systems.
“We’ve been beating the bushes to get out and talk to” groups about energy conservation and the challenges of paying utility bills in a down economy, Intermountain Gas spokesman Byron Defenbach said.
Idaho Power’s customer service manager said the utility company had seen an increase in power shutoffs this year because of inability to make payments, although specific numbers were not immediately available.
At Idaho Power, more customers are calling asking the utility company to work with them to help with power bills payments. Customers of both Idaho Power and Intermountain Gas, which serve Southern Idaho, can participate in budget billing. Budget billing charges an average amount each month based on monthly averages throughout the year. The program eliminates higher bills during high utility use months. Gas customers have 60 percent of their heating energy use in December, January and February, Defenbach said.
Some Idaho utility users may also request inclusion on a winter moratorium list during December, January and February. By state law, utility companies are prohibited from shutting off heating sources to households who qualify for the list by having children, elderly or infirm people in the residence.
Last winter 10,284 Idaho Power customers and 4,553 Intermountain Gas customers declared eligibility for the moratorium.
Pretty chilling numbers, and ones that will probably keep a lot of us up at night. A number of energy advocates will be pressing for regulatory changes to require our utilities to address the low-income ratepayer issues described above. We hope you’ll join us in participating in the PUC docket, and also urging our utilities to partner with our low-income allies to find workable solutions to this challenge.
V: Idaho Power’s Rate Case: Boise Hearing on Monday
Idaho Power Company’s 2008 rate case is proceeding apace, and the PUC will be holding a public hearing in Boise on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at its headquarters at 472 W. Washington Street.
Idaho Power is asking the PUC to approve an increase in rates that will average almost 10 percent, depending on customer classes. In addition, the PUC will be holding technical hearings on the rate increase from Tuesday, Dec. 16, through Friday, Dec. 19.
This will be the third and final public hearing on Idaho Power’s rate case. Information, including the company’s filing, can be found at www.puc.idaho.gov and then by clicking “File Room” and “Electric Cases” and then going to IPC-E-08-10.
VI: Idaho Power’s SO2 Allowance Sales and Energy Education Proposal
Many of you will recall that Bill Chisholm has championed the cause of using some of Idaho Power’s proceeds from excess sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions credits to promote energy efficiency education programs in our schools. The PUC has scheduled an additional workshop in this docket (go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then to “Electric Cases” and then to IPC-E-08-11) for January 8 at the PUC headquarters in Boise.
According to the PUC:
“The purpose of the workshop is for Idaho Power to present an overview of its existing energy efficiency education efforts and its energy efficiency programs available to schools. More specifically, Idaho Power shall advise the Commission on the type and scope of its school energy audits; the contents of its existing school educational curriculum; the type and scope of its completed and currently underway school conservation/energy projects; and any additions or enhancements to these efforts that it believes could be reasonably accomplished with an infusion of additional funds that would directly benefit energy efficiency education in the classroom…”
This is an important docket, and Bill has long championed energy efficiency and education efforts – all of which would benefit from a prudent use of these proceeds. I urge you to explore the docket and weigh in to support Bill’s efforts to expand and enhance energy education in our schools. Moreover, I encourage you to examine Bill’s proposals alongside that from the Office of Energy Resources and the Department of Education. The OER/DOE proposal for the $500,000 in play includes more than $161,000 in “administrative and overhead” costs, which means about one-third of the state proposal would be devoted to admin & overhead costs, as opposed to deploying the funds for curriculum development and actual delivery of services to the students. Devoting a third of this money to administrative costs is inappropriate and ineffective. Bill’s proposal deserves our support. The curricula exist to promote energy education, and we don’t need to re-invent the wheel on this.
Once again: The next workshop is on Jan. 8 in Boise; the proposed comment deadline to the PUC is Feb. 5, and they should be directed to the PUC at:
PO Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720-0074
Email: [email protected]
On the Agenda:
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Dec. 15, 22, and 29 at 1:30 p.m. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us
BONUS: Listen to Arjun Makhijani’s presentation to the Boise City Club! Dr. Makhijani’s presentation is both timely and germane to the energy issues we’re facing in Idaho. I encourage you to spend an hour to hear his presentation and the excellent questions that followed:
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Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free
Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
November 19, 2008
Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free
Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 11:45 am – 1:15 pm
The Grove Hotel
Arjun Makhijani Energy expert Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) believes the United States must assume a leadership role in moving the world to a zero-CO2-emissions energy economy, while at the same time taking the lead in reducing the world’s reliance on nuclear power.
His 2007 book, “Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy,” is the first analysis of a transition to a U.S. economy based completely on renewable energy. He argues that a zero-carbon economy is possible without increasing the percentage of Gross Domestic Product devoted to lighting, heating, cooling, transportation and other energy uses.
Arjun Makhijani, Takoma Park, Md., earned his Ph.D. in engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in nuclear fusion. Since 1971, when he authored the first study of the energy efficiency potential of the U.S. economy, he has written extensively on energy, including nuclear fuel cycle issues such as weapons production, testing and nuclear waste. He also has testified before Congress, worked on the Ford Foundation Energy Policy Project and consulted for utilities and United Nations agencies. In 2007, he was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He founded IEER, an independent nonprofit think tank, in 1988.
Forum chair: Geoff Baker
Forum moderator: Marcia Franklin