Idaho Energy Update
Feb. 1, 2006
Following last Sunday’s announcement by MidAmerican Energy that it was pulling the plug on a possible nuclear power plant in Payette County, it was another busy week on the energy front in Idaho. Many of you have heard by now that the French nuclear giant Areva has been poking around Idaho in search of subsidies, tax breaks, or other enticements if Idaho wants to be home to its uranium enrichment centrifuge facility. The Snake River Alliance release on that development is below.
Meanwhile, in the Idaho Legislature a House committee easily passed a bill to require new state office buildings exceed existing energy efficiency codes by 30 percent, while another House panel introduced legislation that would invest some of the state’s share of recent federal geothermal lease sales in the new Office of Energy Resources, which is in dire need of funding.
See below for more information on these and other developments, and how to learn more about these important issues.
Thanks as always,
Idaho Energy Advocate
NW Energy Coalition
I: In the Legislature, House Panel Approves Green Building Bill
With no meaningful dissent, the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee on Wednesday approved a bill to require new state-funded buildings exceed the existing International Energy Conservation Code by 30 percent. Only two members of the panel opposed the measure, which is expected to gain swift approval in the full House on Monday and then heads to the Senate. House Bill 422, the “Idaho Energy Efficient State Buildings Act,” includes provisions for the Permanent Building Fund Advisory Council to allow construction of some buildings that would be impractical to meet IECC standards to avoid the new requirements. Otherwise, all new buildings of 5,000 square feet or more or renovations projects of similarly sized buildings would be required to be 30 percent or better than IECC standards. This is something most states and hundreds of local jurisdictions across the country are already doing, and while it’s a small step it’s a symbolic one.
Also this week, the House Resources Committee voted unanimously to introduce House Bill 432, which would provide additional funding for the new Office of Energy Resources – the old Idaho Energy Division in the Department of Water Resources. The bill, brought by OER Administrator Paul Kjellander, allows OER to keep a large chunk of the money the state receives from renewable energy leases and sales on federal lands. Over the past 18 months, the Bureau of Land Management sold $5.6 million worth of geothermal leases on its Idaho lands. Federal law allows half of that money to go to BLM, which keeps half (25 percent of the total) and sends the counties where the leases are located the other half (another 25 percent). The other 50 percent of the total proceeds from the sales goes to the state, and under the bill introduced by the House Resources Committee at Kjellander’s request, the OER would retain 90 percent of that 50 percent and send the rest to the affected county(s). In this case, OER would receive about $2 million for its programs, which is a good thing given that neither the governor nor the Legislature has sought funding for the energy agency from general funds. The energy office has always relied on whatever federal or other grants it can scrounge to support its work.
Each week, we’ll post thumbnail summaries on where the bills stand. Text of bills can be found by going to the Legislature’s main site at www.legislature.idaho.gov and clicking the “Legislation” link and then “Legislative Topic Index of Bills” and scrolling to the categories in which you’re interested in. Such as “Energy,” “Environment” or “Utilities.” You then click the link to the bill for more information. The Energy section currently looks like this:
Energy Efficient State Buildings Act . . . . . . . . . . . H0422
Energy facility siting, construction moratorium. . . . . .S1314
Major energy facilities, siting certificate. . . . . . . .S1293
Nuclear energy use, public advisory vote . . . . . . . . .S1289
Renewable energy resources, federal lands, funds . . . . . H0432
Here’s a look at the status of pending bills:
Energy Facility Siting (S1293):
Creates a state facility siting authority to review and approve or disapprove sites for large merchant generation facilities.
Status: Introduced in the Senate and referred to State Affairs; no hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Clint Stennett, David Langhorst, Elliot Werk, Mike Burkett, Kate Kelly, Diane Bilyeu, Dick Sagness.
Non-binding Vote on Nuclear Power Plants (S1289)
Amends Idaho Code Section 39-3027 (which prevents passage of state laws prohibiting nuclear power plants for generation without voter approval) by requiring a positive vote by Idahoans for nuclear power plants proposed in Idaho. The vote is advisory and not binding.
Status: Introduced in the Senate and referred to State Affairs; no hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Clint Stennett
Power Plant Moratorium (S1314)
Places a two-year two years to the soon-to-expire moratorium on permitting or construction of merchant thermal power plant – through April 2010.
Status: Introduced in the Senate and referred to State Affairs; no hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Clint Stennett, Kate Kelly, Eliot Werk, David Langhorst, Mike Burkett.
Green State Buildings (H422)
Requires new state-financed buildings and major renovations of existing buildings to meet or exceed national energy efficiency codes.
Status: Approved by the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee and sent to the floor with a favorable recommendation. House approval is expected Monday.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Kate Kelly
Office of Energy Resources Funding (H432)
Allocates most of the state’s share ($2.3 million) of recent BLM geothermal lease sales to the new Office of Energy Resources.
Status: Introduced by the House Resources Committee and awaiting hearing.
Sponsor: Office of Energy Resources Administrator Paul Kjellander
II: Areva Looking at Idaho for Uranium Enrichment Facility
The French nuclear giant Areva, which is controlled by the French government, has placed Idaho on the short list of possible sites for its proposed uranium enrichment centrifuge project, which is intended as a domestic source of fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. Here’s the Alliance’s news release, issued Thursday:
Jan. 31, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Andrea Shipley, Snake River Alliance Executive Director
(208) 344-9161 office
(208) 514-8713 cell
State Subsidies for Uranium Enrichment Plant Would be an Insult to Idahoans
BOISE, ID— Idaho’s state leaders have no business using taxpayer money to try to lure a French government-controlled uranium enrichment plant to Idaho, the Snake River Alliance said Thursday.
“The commercial nuclear power industry already relies on U.S. taxpayer subsidies for its very survival in its bid to build new nuclear power plants,” Snake River Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley said. “But to ask Idaho taxpayers to subsidize a uranium enrichment facility in Idaho is just over the top. Idahoans will not stand for it, and the Alliance will ensure they are made aware of any attempts to spend state funds on a risky and completely unnecessary project.”
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Areva, Inc., one of the world’s largest nuclear power companies and controlled by the French government, is discussing plans to build a uranium enrichment facility meeting with officials in Idaho and other states to build a uranium enrichment facility for nuclear power plants. Such a facility would import a uranium concentrate, called “yellow cake,” and then separate out the rare uranium-235 to be used in nuclear reactor fuel. The AP account also attributed to Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, the chair of the powerful House Revenue and Taxation Committee, that Areva is looking at possible sites in Bonneville County, home of Idaho Falls.
The story said Lake “has been working with Idaho Falls leaders on a package of tax breaks to introduce in the Legislature to help lure the plant.” Legislation is being drafted that would “provide hundreds of millions in tax incentives to help persuade the company to build a plant near the Idaho National Laboratory nuclear reservation near Idaho Falls,” the AP reported.
“Idaho has a $200 million backlog in transportation projects, a gaping hole in its Medicaid program, a crisis in managing its prison population, immense education needs, and underpaid state employees,” Shipley said. “It does not have ‘hundreds of millions’ of dollars to lavish on one of the world’s richest government-controlled nuclear power companies. The last time the Legislature showered taxpayer money on two corporations – Micron and Albertsons – the taxpayers were burned. They won’t tolerate it again, particularly for something as dangerous as this.”
Shipley said the Alliance is particularly concerned that state officials are actively negotiating with Areva to try to attract the firm to Idaho without first notifying the public about what the plant will entail and determining whether Idahoans want Areva’s operations in the state.
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (www.nrc.gov), which would have to approve an enrichment plant such as the one Areva is proposing, the uranium centrifuge enrichment process can create a number of chemical and radiological health and environmental hazards, including creation of hydrogen fluoride, which is extremely dangerous if inhaled. The process also generates a variety of dangerous waste products, including depleted uranium. An enrichment plant in Paducah, Ky., has experienced a number of safety violations and health threats.
“Other than the obvious public safety and environmental risks, what would a plant like this bring to Idaho?” Shipley said. “Idaho has been targeted by developers of two nuclear power plants – one team soon realized the economic folly of building a reactor and pulled out last weekend. Now we have a scheme for a uranium enrichment plant to provide fuel for nuclear plants that probably will never be built. It’s time for state officials to take a reality check: Idahoans do not share their enthusiasm for all things nuclear, particularly given the ongoing threat to our Snake River Aquifer, and they especially don’t want our legislators to dig into our wallets to pay for it. Idaho has no working uranium mines or milling operations. It has no commercial nuclear power plants. And it has no need for a plant like this.”
The Snake River Alliance is a nonprofit organization working toward energy solutions for Idaho and dedicated to serving as Idaho’s nuclear watchdog.
III: Calls to Congress Needed as Senate Considers Renewables Tax Incentive
The U.S. Senate has delayed its vote on the economic stimulus package until next week – probably Wednesday – and clean energy allies in the Senate have inserted important language to continue critical tax credits for renewable energy development. So energy advocates nationwide are urging their members to call their senators (especially Idaho’s two senators!) to urge their support for the renewables tax credit. In many cases, particularly with wind power, extending the production tax credit for investments can make all the difference in whether a project gets built. This isn’t a handout to energy developers; it’s an investment in the communities where these projects might be built.
URGENT ACTION ALERT — Call Senator Crapo today!
WHAT: Tell Senator Crapo to strengthen the economy and support clean energy by voting for the Senate’s version of the Economic Stimulus Package.
WHEN: There may be a Senate vote on the economic stimulus package with the renewable energy package. Crapo is a key target – we need to have his phone ringing today. (202) 224-6142 _________________________________________________________________________
IV: ISU Going Green
The following uplifting story comes from Local 8 News in Pocatello:
By Michelle Costa
“Going green” is something that many businesses are trying to do. Idaho State University has been finding ways to conserve energy for a long time now.
Idaho State University has been reducing its energy usage. In ISU’s steam plant, they’ve bought a new boiler that’s more efficient. The University also uses coal rather than gas. In addition, they aren’t sending out harmful things into the environment. The University’s “gone green” by replacing energy inefficient lights with more energy efficient lights. Darrell Buffaloe of ISU said most classrooms and offices had too much lighting. By fixing this, he said it gives money that would have been wasted went back to the University.
“In reality, our purpose is to try and reduce the cost as much as we can to save the students money and that’s what we try to do,” said Darrell Buffaloe, Associate Vice President for ISU Facilities Services.
Buffaloe said the University wants to take themselves completely off electricity and gas. He said they are considering moving to windmills that would create their own heat and fueling. He said in the future they will place a windmill on the College of Engineering so it can create its own energy.
V: MidAmerican Plans World’s Largest Land-Based Wind Farm
Less than a week after MidAmerican Energy announced it was pulling the plug on its proposed Idaho nuclear power plant in Payette County, the Iowa-based utility announced plans to build what would be the world’s largest land-based wind farm. MidAmerican does business in eastern Idaho as Rocky Mountain Power. Here’s a news release from the American Wind Energy Association:
IOWA UTILITY ANNOUNCES WORLD’S LARGEST WIND FARM
National Trade Group Applauds Decision, Sees Multiple Benefits
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) today praised MidAmerican Energy, Iowa’s largest utility, for its announcement to build a 310-megawatt (MW) wind facility in the state. The project would become the world’s largest land-based wind plant, if completed before a proposed expansion of the 300-MW Stateline facility currently in operation in the Pacific Northwest.
“We applaud MidAmerican’s record-breaking announcement and the decisive step it is taking to develop Iowa’s vast wind power potential,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “Consumers, farmers, the environment, and the economy will all benefit from growing investment in wind power as a part of the state’s electricity mix.”
The new wind farm will consist of 180 to 200 turbines, with a rated generating capacity of 1.5 to 1.65 MW each. Each turbine is about 400 feet tall, and generates enough electricity to power 400 to 500 average American households. The location of the project has not yet been decided. The wind farm is part of a plan to add a total of 1,640 MW to MidAmerican’s generation capability including a 540-MW natural gas plant and a 790-MW coal plant, and freeze electricity rates until 2010. To generate the same amount of electricity as the wind plant using coal would require a train of coal cars 34 miles long, each year.
Iowa has a vast wind energy potential — nine times larger than that of California, the state with the most wind power installed to date (1,700 MW), and five times that of Germany, the world leader in installed wind power capacity (Germany now has 12,000 MW of wind power generation, and the country’s wind industry employs 45,000 people). Currently, Iowa hosts 423 MW of wind power generating capacity, the third largest amount of installed capacity in the U.S. after California and Texas.
Iowa gets 85% of its power from coal, 9% from nuclear, and the rest from other sources.
The cost of generating electricity from the wind has decreased to a level where, in states with a large potential like Iowa, it is in a competitive range with power from other new sources. That cost is also stable throughout the life of the project. The wind power in MidAmerican’s mix should therefore help the utility keep its electricity rates down as pledged.
The total installed capacity of wind energy in the United States at the end of 2002 was more than 4,600 MW, or enough to serve more than 1.2 million households. AWEA estimates that wind energy can provide 6% of the nation’s electricity by 2020.
AWEA, formed in 1974, is the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry. The association’s membership includes turbine manufacturers, wind project developers, utilities, academicians, and interested individuals. More information on wind energy is available at the AWEA web site: www.awea.org
On the Agenda:
►The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will hear the budget presentation from the new Office of Energy Resources and Administrator Paul Kjellander at about 10:45-11 a.m. Monday in Room 316 of the Capitol Annex (old Ada County Courthouse). JFAC’s meeting runs from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and the OER budget is last up on Monday.
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission continues to take public comment as it reviews Idaho Power’s proposed rate increase in light of the recent settlement agreement reached by the company and intervenors in the rate case. The company originally sought an average 10.35 percent increase in rates, including 4.5 percent for residential customers (an average of $2.86 per month) , 15 percent for small commercial, 13.1 percent for large commercial, 15 percent for industrial, and 20 percent for irrigators. That would have generated about $64 million. Under the settlement agreement, the residential increase would be 4.7 percent, with substantial reductions in other classes from the original proposal for a request of of about $32 million. The Boise public hearing will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at the PUC headquarters. For more information or to review documents in the case, go to the PUC’s website at www.pub.idaho.gov, click “File Room” and “Electric Cases” and find IPC-E-07-08.
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Feb. 4, 11, and 26. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us