Idaho Energy Update
Oct. 10, 2008
The first of four planned hearings by the Elmore County Planning & Zoning Commission on a rezoning request for a nuclear reactor on the Snake River was held Wednesday, but the developer was in Las Vegas trying to sell reactors to Mexico rather than in Idaho defending his project. Meanwhile, the Public Utilities Commission will hold a workshop this week on Idaho Power’s rate case and another workshop on efforts to help low-income utility customers cope with soaring energy bills. And PacifiCorp has received approval for a large transmission line in eastern Idaho, despite dozens of negative comments from nearby residents. Rocky Mountain Power has filed its electric rate request, and energy takes center stage for BSU’s “Election 2008: Know the Issues” forum.
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 Nuke Plant Hearings Open Without AEHI Chief
The Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission kicked off for planned hearings on Alternative Energy Holdings’ rezoning request for its proposed nuclear reactor near Hammett on Wednesday, but AEHI President Don Gillispie sent his regrets – as he said he was in Las Vegas working on a deal to sell nuclear projects to government officials from Mexico.
The heavily attended hearing in Mountain Home lasted a bit more than an hour, however, as Gillispie’s consultants gave a presentation that lasted only 30 minutes and only three individuals spoke in favor of the proposed reactor. Additional hearings on Nov. 22 and 29 will be devoted to opponents of the reactor.
In Gillispie’s place, the Commission heard from AEHI consultant Mark Pecchenino. While Pecchenino told the commission AEHI isn’t required to state in its rezoning application what it intends to do with the property, he then presented information on how other nuclear power plants have been approved elsewhere in the United States – but failed to discuss whether those communities’ land use plans called for such developments. Elmore County’s plan does not.
Pecchenino also repeated AEHI’s claim that its nuclear plant complex will bring in $53.2 million in annual property taxes to Elmore County, but that claim is based on a year-old economic study done for AEHI when it was still pitching its reactor to Owyhee County, downstream on the Snake River. In fact, a bill passed by the 2008 Legislature and signed by the governor allows counties to cap property taxes on the first $2 billion invested for such projects, meaning the actual revenues to Elmore County may be a fraction of what AEHI claims. Pecchenino also claimed Elmore County residents will benefit from this abundant new energy resource, when in fact no Idaho utility has indicated an interest in purchasing AEHI’s power.
In another development, the Elmore County Growth and Development Department released its staff report to the Commission on Thursday. That report raised a number of serious issues that will have to be addressed before the project moves forward.
For instance, the report cites concerns raised by the Idaho Department of Water Resources about where AEHI plans to acquire the massive amounts of water needed to cool and operate the reactor. IDWR cautioned AEHI faces an uphill attempt to transfer the existing irrigation water rights to an industrial use, and also warned the existing use is for irrigation season only – it is not a right to withdraw Snake River water year-round.
The staff report noted the project will change the “rural lifestyle of the area” and will place huge burdens on the roads leading to the site. And the report raises serious questions about whether AEHI’s project would harm private property rights, given the project will have direct impacts on nearby farmers and other landowners.
The report also notes the Comprehensive Plan has designated the county’s only heavy industrial zone in the Simco Road District, some 19 miles from the proposed reactor site. It does not call for a new heavy industrial zone elsewhere in the county, as AEHI is proposing.
Those with questions about how the hearings will work or about how to testify before the P&Z Commission can contact the Commission at (208) 587-2142.
II: PacifiCorp Gets PUC OK on Big Transmission Line from Utah to Downey
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved an application by PacifiCorp (known in Idaho as Rocky Mountain Power) to build a $750 million transmission line that would run roughly from Salt Lake City to near Downey, Idaho. The 345kv transmission line is one of the larger transmission lines most are familiar with, often using a lattice tower standing more than 100 feet tall.
According to the PUC, the line is designed in part to help move power from remote wind sites in Wyoming and Idaho to more heavily populated areas needing additional power. The exact route of the transmission line, which will run through Oneida and Bannock counties in Idaho, has not been determined, but will be subject to review by state, federal and local government entities. The PUC said about 3 percent of the line’s total cost will be allocated to PacifiCorp’s Idaho customers. The utility serves six western states.
According to a PUC news release: “PacifiCorp said it intended to acquire additional transmission capacity to accommodate current and planned generation projects that can provide an additional 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy to customers. Most of that energy will come from remote wind projects in Wyoming and Idaho. ‘It is a reality that a majority of viable wind projects are located some distance from the metropolitan areas that often represent an electric utility’s primary load centers,’ the commission said. One of the Idaho projects that will benefit from the transmission line is the Goshen wind project in Bingham County.” The Goshen project, recently approved by officials in Bingham County, is a large wind project proposed by Ridgeline Energy.
The PUC said it received 34 customer comments, most coming from critics of the location near the Downey substation or who were critical of routes for the line.
For more information on this case, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then to “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and then to PAC-E-08-03.
III: PUC Sets Schedule for Rocky Mountain Rate Hike Request
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has set the schedule for Rocky Mountain Power’s bid to raise its rates an average 4 percent, including an average hike for residential customers of 4.73 percent, or $3.55 a month. The utility sought to have the rate hike become effective Oct. 19; the PUC suspended it for six months to give interested parties a chance to respond or intervene in the case.
Rocky Mountain Power, part of PacifiCorp, serves about 70,000 customers in Idaho. It is asking for no increase for small commercial customers, a nearly 8 percent hike for large commercial customers, and a 2.3 percent raise for irrigators. The utility says demand for electricity continues to grow and that it plans to invest an estimated $2 billion a year over the next two decades for new generation resources, transmission lines and distribution facilities to serve the new customers.
The Idaho PUC will set dates for those wanting to intervene or comment on the case in the near future. Meantime, for more information on this case, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then “Electric Cases” and then PAC-E-08-07.
IV: Energy is Topic for Election Forum at BSU
Anyone with an interest in energy and how it fits into this year’s political campaigns may want to think about attending Monday’s (Oct. 13) “Election 2008: Know the Issues” forum sponsored by Boise State University’s College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs. A panel discussion will explore all things energy, including economic approaches to energy and related environmental and natural resources impacts associated with various energy resources.
The panel will be moderated by BSU public policy and administration and political science professor John Freemuth. The panel will include Stan Mooney, associate professor of economics at Boise State and Dave Soulen, an assistant professor of public policy and administration.
The event will be from 12:40-1:30 p.m. in the BSU Student Union Building’s Hatch Ballroom. It is free and open to the public and will include a Q&A session following the presentations.
On the Agenda:
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds the first of two workshops Tuesday to discuss how to assist low-income electric and gas customers cope with a series of rate increases. The Commission has ordered two workshops – on Oct. 14 and Oct. 22 – to explore such issues as bill payment plans; bill payment assistance; bill reduction through energy-saving measures such as weatherization and conservation; removal of barriers to obtain or keep service; and “case management” to provide more personal assistance to those struggling to pay their bills. The workshops both begin at 10 a.m. and will be held at the PUC hearing room at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise. Idaho’s three regulated electric utilities (Idaho Power, Avista and Rocky Mountain Power) as well as Intermountain Gas have been told to attend the workshops. Utility customers and groups representing customers are also invited to attend. For more information, go to the PUC’s website at www.puc.idaho.gov and then to “File Room” and then “Multi-utility Cases” and then to GNR-U-08-01.
►Idaho Power Co. will hold a meeting of its Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Committee, which is in the process of advising the state’s largest electric utility on its energy planning. The meeting will be at the company’s Boise headquarters from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is open to the public. To review the agenda or for other information about the Committee, go to: http://www.idahopower.com/energycenter/irp/2009/
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Oct. 20, and 27. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us
► The Snake River Alliance is sponsoring the second in a series of energy breakfasts in Hailey on Oct. 20 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at CK’s Restaurant. This month’s breakfast is “Utilizing Solar Power in the Wood River Valley” and will feature a panel of experts that includes Chris Kastner, owner and chef at CK’s Restaurant, Garth Callahan, owner of Energy Savers of Idaho, and Neil Bradshaw, president of the board of the Ketchum Community Development Committee. The program will focus on helping commercial and residential property owners get into building new and retrofitting with solar and how solar can help improve your bottom line. For more information or to RSVP, call 208 344-9161.
► The Sun Valley Sustainability Conference takes place from Oct. 23-25 in Sun Valley, Idaho. For the agenda, speakers, continuing education opportunities, sponsorship and other information, go to: http://www.sunvalleysustainability.org/
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will be taking public comments through Dec. 9 on Idaho Power’s request to implement its “advanced metering infrastructure” across its service territory through 2011. Idaho Power proposes to spend an estimated $70 million to deploy the new meters for its customers. The meters allow the utility to read from a remote location and also to inform customers about energy-saving opportunities in hopes of reducing energy consumption. For more information on Idaho Power’s request and the PUC’s order, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then to “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and then to IPC-E-08-16.
► The Idaho Legislature’s Interim Committee on Energy, Environment and Technology will meet Nov. 18 and 19 in Boise. The agenda has not been set yet.