Idaho Energy Update
Oct. 31, 2008
Idahoans continued to turn out to the Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission this week to voice their opposition to a proposed nuclear reactor on the Snake River, while the reactor’s developer acknowledged in a Securities and Exchange filing that innumerable things could delay the plant or stop it altogether. Meanwhile, renowned energy expert Arjun Makhijani will be in Boise Nov. 19 to discuss energy and climate issues at the City Club, and U.S. Geothermal has won a DOE grant for expanded development in southeast Idaho. 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 Progress; Developer Files Papers with SEC
The Elmore County Planning and Zoning Department held the third of four scheduled meetings Wednesday on a proposal by Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., to rezone about 1,300 acres of land above the Snake River from farmland to heavy industrial to accommodate a proposed nuclear reactor in rural Elmore County.
This week’s hearing was an opportunity for individuals opposing the AEHI’s proposed nuke plant to express their views to the P&Z Commission. Two weeks ago, 14 groups in opposition were allowed to testify. Next week, on Nov. 5, AEHI will have a chance to rebut earlier testimony in opposition to its project. The Commission is expected to make a recommendation either in favor of or against the proposal at the Nov. 5 meeting or in the days following. After receiving that recommendation, the Elmore County Commission will start its own review of the proposal.
Critics of the plant have now spent more than four hours providing the P&Z Commission with compelling testimony on why AEHI’s nuclear proposal should be rejected as an affront to Elmore County’s quality of life and its agricultural heritage, as well as a threat to the health and safety of residents in Elmore County and beyond. Serious concerns about the plant’s impact on Mountain Home Air Force Base’s operations and on the surrounding environment have also been raised.
Meanwhile, AEHI has filed registration papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission in hopes of moving its stock to the Over the Counter listing. The company said it filed the registration to the SEC to make the company’s finances more transparent and to provide additional financial information to the investing public.
AEHI’s filing to the SEC contains numerous warnings to investors about why the project may not work out, but it also says the company might consider building a coal plant on the site if the nuclear reactor scheme doesn’t work out. The company also says it may spend $6 million to buy up additional water rights, although comments by the Idaho Department of Water Resources to county officials indicate those water rights may not be available.
“It would be difficult to obtain new water rights from the Snake River in that location due to concerns about Trust Water,” IDWR said in its comments to the Elmore County Growth and Development Department.
Even if the rezoning application is approved by county officials, AEHI would need to submit a conditional use permit application with detailed plans for its reactor scheme. It would also need to obtain additional water rights as well as approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission – although AEHI doesn’t plan to file with the SEC until this time next year.
To review a copy of AEHI’s SEC filing, go to:
II: Energy Expert Arjun Makhijani to Address Boise City Club
Renowned energy expert Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research will be this month’s headliner at the City Club of Boise on Nov. 19 at the Grove Hotel.
Dr. Makhijani’s 2007 book, “Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy,” is a groundbreaking study on how the United States can meet its future energy needs through renewable energy and energy conservation and efficiency and without having to build new fossil-fuel and nuclear power generation plants.
For more information on the City Club presentation or to register, visit www.cityclubofboise.org. For more information on Dr. Makhijani’s work, go to www.ieer.org.
III: U.S. Geothermal Wins DOE Grant for More Development at Raft River
U.S. Geothermal Inc., the firm developing the Raft River geothermal site near Malta, has been awarded a U.S. Department of Energy grant to explore enhanced geothermal recovery activities at the southeast Idaho site, possibly squeezing more generation out of the site than it currently produces.
The company’s federal grant will provide U.S. Geothermal with $9 million “to demonstrate the viability of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) at Raft River, which is the region’s first utility-scale geothermal development. The money will fund exploration of the use of existing wells and other technologies to produce more energy from the site.
“We believe his EGS project will have a significant impact on efforts to develop more geothermal energy from the Raft River site that might not otherwise be developed,” company president and CEO Daniel Kunz said in a news release. “The knowledge gained from this work at Raft River should also help to advance EGS technology and he growth of geothermal energy in the United States.” Kunz said the new EGS research may expand geothermal development to the point where it can provide about 100,000MW of clean baseload power nationwide.
All told, the DOE awarded $78 million in funding to develop and demonstrate the new EGS technologies. Besides maximizing geothermal power potential at proven sites, geologists hope the EGS program will also reduce the number of non-productive wells drilled.
U.S. Geothermal’s Raft River site currently provides about 11MW of power to Idaho Power and its customers, and the company recently signed another agreement to provide power to the Eugene Water and Electric Board in Oregon.
IV: PUC Continues to Hear Ways to Ease Utility Hikes on Low-Income Ratepayers
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission held a second workshop to hear more ideas on how to reduce the impacts of soaring electrical and gas utility rates on Idaho’s lower-income consumers. The PUC scheduled the workshops in the wake of multiple rate increases by Idaho’s three regulated electrical utilities and Intermountain Gas. At the workshops, the utilities have met with low-income advocates and clean energy advocates, as well as Idaho legislators, to explore regulatory and legislative ways to help Idaho’s lower-income consumers to pay their utility bills.
Possible relief could come in the form of additional bill payment assistance programs, new rate designs to set lower rates for lower-income residential consumers (something now prohibited by Idaho statute), flexible payment plans and options, and additional weatherization and other energy-saving initiatives.
Some of the measures could require legislative action and some could require approval by the PUC. The Commission and the participants in the workshops will continue to hash out ideas, and it’s expected the PUC will hold hearings in some locations around the state to gather more ideas from the public.
V: Intermountain Gas Files for Rate Decrease to Reflect Gas Prices
Intermountain Gas Co., Idaho’s largest natural gas utility, has asked the Public Utilities Commission to approve a rate reduction just a month after the PUC approved a rate hike.
The gas utility cited softening gas prices and growing supplies in asking the PUC to approve a rate decrease that will amount to about $7.41 for residential customers using gas for hearing and water heating. Residential customers using gas for space heating only would see an average decrease of $5.18 a month. The proposed effective date is Dec. 1.
This reduction reflects the utility’s cost for its fuel. Just a month earlier, consumers were hit with a 15 percent increase in rates.
On the Agenda:
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. and on Nov. 10 and 24 at 1:30 p.m. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us
► 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.