Idaho Energy Update
August 8, 2008
More good news on Idaho’s wind front, as Bingham County in eastern Idaho approved two wind projects this week, including the too-long-delayed Wolverine Canyon project by Ridgeline. We’re seeing steady progress in wind projects coming online and gaining local approval in Idaho.
Also, Idaho Power is asking the PUC to approve its plan to deploy new “smart meters” across its service territory. And the PUC has also accepted Idaho Power’s plan to buy power from a dairy digester.
Finally, many of you have been following the plight of the proposed Idaho nuke plant. Activists worked hard this week to let the media know about the shaky financial status of Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., and our efforts are bearing fruit as the media are running stories such as this one from the Associated Press:
“Auditor: Idaho nuclear company risking going out of business
Alternate Energy Holdings, a small Boise company aiming to build a $4.5 billion nuclear power plant in Elmore County, risks going out of business because it’s lost so much money, according to an auditor that just reviewed its finances.
Alternate Energy Holdings had a net loss of $3.4 million in 2007, leaving it with assets worth $324,431, auditors from New York-based Rotenberg & Co. wrote this week in a report. Since its inception, Alternate Energy Holdings has a deficit of $4.9 million.
“The company’s significant operating losses raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern,” Rotenberg wrote in its audit of Alternate Energy Holding’s balance sheet.
An Alternate Energy Holdings spokesman didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.
Snake River Alliance, an anti-nuclear group in Boise, said the report highlights the company’s problems. Alternate Energy trades on an over-the-counter market called the Pink Sheets under the symbol AEHI.PK. That market is for companies that do not meet the financial requirements to trade on a larger exchange. The stock traded late Friday at 35 cents a share. The company abandoned its original plant site near C.J. Strike Reservoir south of the Snake River last spring and said it would move the plant site 15 miles east in Elmore County on the north side of the river. President Don Gillispie said in April that Alternate Energy had six months to come up with $15 million to buy it.
The company has yet to file an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build the plant.”
Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them my way!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Eastern Idaho Wind Projects Win Approval
Wind power in Idaho continued to gain traction this week thanks to Bingham County’s approval of Ridgeline Energy’s 150-turbine wind farm along Wolverine Canyon, followed by another approval of a 66-turbine wind farm just to the west of Ridgeline’s project.
After an extended permitting process that was lengthened by opposition from Melaleuca Inc. CEO Frank VanderSloot, who owns property near the proposed Wolverine Canyon wind farm, the Bingham County Commission unanimously approved Ridgeline’s project, clearing the way for construction this year.
“The opportunity for renewable energy is positive,” Commissioner Wayne Brower was quoted as saying in the Idaho Falls Post Register. The paper quoted Ridgeline VP Rich Rayhill as saying, “We’re very excited. This (decision) demonstrates great leadership on behalf of the Bingham County commissioners.” Approval of the project came only after prolonged hearings and appeals by some property owners who complained the turbines would reduce property values and detract from the canyon’s scenic attributes. Ridgeline, which displayed remarkable patience during the process, pulled its application months ago when opposition surfaced, offering instead to give the county more time to notify all residents so their questions and concerns could be addressed. With the county approval in hand, Ridgeline will next begin negotiating with utilities to find a purchaser for the wind power. The company is currently selling the 64.5 megawatts from the existing Wolverine Creek project to Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp.
Meanwhile, Bingham commissioners signed off on the proposal by Western Energy to build the 66-turbine, 66-megawatt project near Cedar Creek, east of Firth. That project is expected to cost between $120 million and $180 million, according to the Post Register, and construction will likely begin this spring. That project will be built on land owned by Ted Thompson and his family, which owns 5,000 acres. The Post Register quoted Thompson as saying operating costs are putting a squeeze on ranches like theirs. “It’s a way for us to stay in business, basically,” he told the newspaper.
Idaho currently has 74.5MW of utility scale wind projects feeding power to utilities, including the 64.5MW Wolverine Creek project to Rocky Mountain Power and the 10MW Fossil Gulch project near Hagerman, which is selling to Idaho Power. Another 80MW of wind projects, including a set of two wind farms east of Mountain Home and another set of two wind farms west of Hagerman, are expected to come online this summer. All of that new wind power will be purchased by Idaho Power, which is also buying about 100MW of wind from Horizon Wind’s Elkhorn near La Grande, Ore.
II: Idaho Power Plans to Deploy Smart Meters to Most Customers
Idaho Power filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission this week to seek approval to install “advanced meters” throughout most of its service territory over the next three years. If approved by the PUC, the $70 million-plus investment in these new smarter meters will lay the groundwork for a system in which the utility can more easily collect meter information from its customers, but also make it possible for new energy-saving transactions with customers.
Idaho Power is asking the PUC for a “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity”, which is required if the company hopes to recover the investment costs. Assuming it’s granted – and the PUC likely will, since it told the company to develop the program – Idaho Power will begin installing the new “Advanced Metering Infrastructure” beginning in the Boise-Eagle-Kuna-Meridian area in 2009, followed by Canyon and Payette regions in 2010, and the Twin Falls, Hailey, Jerome, Pocatello and Salmon areas in the final year. Replacing the meters requires careful timing to make sure the new devices are done to meet their respective substations and other grid requirements.
Most of the costs of replacing the old-style meters will be borne in one way or another by ratepayers. As the new meters are deployed, the utility expects it will be able to save money by more nimbly communicating with the meters to collect billing information. But more importantly, if it’s successful the new fleet of meters will enable the company to develop “time of use” pricing mechanisms to encourage energy conservation by letting consumers know it’s cheaper to use power at certain times and more expensive to use power during other “peak” demand periods.
To check out Idaho Power’s filing in this case, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then the “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and find IPC-E-08-16.
III: PUC Accepts Deal Between Idaho Power and Digester Firm
The Idaho PUC today accepted a first-of-its-kind power contract between Idaho Power and a Magic Valley dairy that will be selling the utility power from its anaerobic digester.
Here’s the release from the PUC:
Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Case No. IPC-E-08-09, Order No. 30608
PUC accepts sale agreement between Idaho Power, anaerobic digester
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved an Idaho Power Co. application to buy power from an anaerobic digester to be built alongside the Big Sky Dairy near Gooding.
The proposed 20-year contract with DF-AP#1 LLC is for 1.5 megawatts of generation. DF-AP, based in Ferndale, Wa., has a scheduled operation date of Feb. 14, 2009.
The generator qualifies as a small-power production facility under the provision of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, or PURPA. Passed by Congress during the energy crisis of the late 1970s, PURPA requires electric utilities to offer to buy power produced by small-power producers who obtain Qualifying Facility (QF) status. The rate to be paid project developers, called an “avoided cost rate,” is determined and published by state commissions. The avoided cost rate is to be equal to the cost the electric utility avoids if it would have had to generate the power itself or purchase it from another source. The avoided cost rate for a non-fuel generator that signs a non-levelized contract during 2008 is $66.82 per megawatt-hour or 6.68 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Unique to this contract is a clause that requires DF-AP to pay a stipulated amount if the project does not come online by its contracted date. Commission staff said the provision is reasonable because at least six separate PURPA facilities have failed to meet their contractual online dates with Idaho Power.
The commission agreed that a delay security provision is reasonable to protect the utility against potential default or failure. However, the commission is concerned that such provisions could have a “potentially deleterious effect” on future PURPA projects. “Quite often, operators of (PURPA) qualified small-power production facilities do not have ready access to the necessary amount of security or capital delineated in this agreement.”
The commission said delay security provisions should come close to reflecting Idaho Power’s increase in power supply costs if the project fails to meet its scheduled online date and not be significantly greater than that amount so as to be “punitive in nature.”
A full text of the commission’s order, along with other documents related to this case, is available on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on “File Room” and then on “Electric Cases” and scroll down to Case No. IPC-E-08-09.
Interested parties may petition the commission for reconsideration by no later than Aug. 20. Petitions for reconsideration must set forth specifically why the petitioner contends that the order is unreasonable, unlawful or erroneous. Petitions should include a statement of the nature and quantity of evidence the petitioner will offer if reconsideration is granted.
Petitions can be delivered to the commission at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise, mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID, 83720-0074, or faxed to 208-334-3762.
On the Agenda:
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Aug. 11, 18, and 25. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us
► The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service will be taking public comments through Sept. 19 on the multi-agency programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) to expedite geothermal leasing on federal lands. BLM and USFS held a workshop in Boise on July 21 to discuss their geothermal leasing program, and they’ll continue to solicit public input on issues that need to be explored as the agencies consider geothermal leases on western lands in the future. More than 50 people turned out for the Boise meeting – twice the attendance of any prior meetings! For more information, go to: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/geothermal/geothermal_nationwide.html
► The Idaho Rural Council is coordinating the Idaho portion of the “Homegrown Prosperity Renewable Energy Tour,” which will include stops in Buhl, Hagerman, Gooding and Boise, between Aug. 11-17. Here’s an excerpt from the tour website explaining its mission, courtesy of Rich Carlson from IRC:
“WORC’s seven-state Homegrown Prosperity Renewable Energy Bus Tour is on the road. The tour is promoting good-paying jobs and income for rural communities and offering solutions to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution. The 12-week outreach tour offers solutions to reduce greenhouse gases; increase energy efficiency in homes and businesses; clean, renewable energy; small-scale cooperative biodiesel production; local foods production, distribution and consumption; and good-paying jobs and income for rural communities.
A four-person crew, traveling in a converted school bus powered by biodiesel, will visit 40 towns in Montana , Wyoming , North Dakota , South Dakota , Colorado , Idaho , and Oregon .Besides using biodiesel instead of petrol diesel, the bus is equipped with solar panels to power a laptop computer and a TV, and there is a solar oven and other displays.
“Our use of oil, gas and coal is changing the climate, leading to drought, wildfires, and other problems for people around the world,” said Jeanne Charter, WORC board member from Shepherd, Mont. “Our energy supplies are less reliable and more costly every day. Energy efficiency and homegrown, clean, renewable energy can reduce the pollution causing climate change while creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs and protecting our land, air and water.
“We call on public officials to pass laws and fund programs that reduce climate change and build healthy local economies by increasing energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy. We call on everyone – government, business, and individuals – to make wise decision as consumers, stop energy waste, and reduce climate-changing pollution.”
There are more details about the tour at: http://www.homegrownprosperity.org/bus%2Dtour/
With four energetic college students staffing the bus, we are considering canvassing with progressive energy policy literature in Boise. Our 501 c 3 status
limits our ability to do candidate advocacy, but we hope to be at the Boise Co-op of Friday eve. (15th), the Capitol City Farmer’s Market on the 16th and the “take out” for tubers and rafters at Ann Morrison Park on the 17th.
Earlier in the week we’re on a tour of U.S. Geothermal, hope to stop at several wind projects between the Magic Valley and Boise.
Idaho Rural Council
► The Idaho Legislature’s Energy, Environment & Technology Interim Committee will meet from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 17 and then from 8 a.m. to noon on Sept. 18 at the Capitol Annex in Room 204 in Boise. The agenda has not been determined; we’ll advise as soon as it is.