Idaho Energy Update
Jan. 18, 2008
The Idaho Legislature will soon turn to energy legislation after three bills were introduced this week dealing with energy facility siting, whether Idahoans should be able to vote on whether they want commercial nuclear power plants in their state, and whether Idaho should extend its moratorium on construction of merchant thermal power plants for another two years. Meanwhile, the Public Utilities Commission held a workshop on how to spend $10 million in proceeds from Idaho Power’s sale of excess pollution credits. And citizens in the Magic Valley are having a say on what their electrical system will look like in the future, including the location of new transmission lines and generation facilities.
See below for more information and how to learn more about these important issues, as well as what’s coming up on the energy front.
Thanks as always,
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Legislature Receives Facility Siting, Nuclear Plant Ballot Measures
Less than two weeks into the 2008 legislative session, three energy-related bills have been introduced in the Senate, and more are expected in the next several days.
S1293 on Energy Facility Siting was introduced Jan. 17 by Senate Democrats. Similar attempts have been made in the last several sessions to create a statewide “siting” panel to review large energy generation proposals, but so far none have received so much as a hearing. This measure may have more legs in light of the two proposed nuclear power plants in Owyhee and Payette counties.
S1293 creates a state panel to review generation projects of 50MW or more regardless of the fuel source (nuclear, coal, wind, geothermal, etc). A “siting certificate” would be required before construction can begin on any project. The state siting panel would include representatives from the Departments of Environmental Quality, Commerce and Water Resources, and the Public Utilities Commission and Office of Energy Resources. In addition, representatives from cities and counties within a 50-mile radius of the proposed facility site would be represented.
The siting panel would look at a variety of environmental, health, economic and other considerations presented by any power plant application. Developers would be required to submit detailed applications about their project, as well as a fee of no more than $100,000 to process the application.
S1289 on Nuclear Power Plants was introduced Jan. 17 by Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett. It would amend Idaho Code Section 39-3027, which currently bans laws prohibiting the use of nuclear power for electricity generation unless voters approve it.
This bill would prohibit any action by state or local jurisdictions to permit or prohibit the use of nuclear energy for generation unless the proposed measure is submitted to Idaho voters in a non-binding election. While the vote is advisory only, it would allow Idaho voters to weigh in on proposed nuclear power plants before any state or local permits are issued.
S1314 on merchant thermal power plants was introduced Jan. 18 by Senate Democrats. It would impose a two-year moratorium on permitting or constructing merchant (not owned by an Idaho regulated utility) thermal power plants with a generating capacity of 250MW or more. The bill also calls on the Legislature to develop a comprehensive state siting mechanism (see above) before new power plants are considered in Idaho. The Legislature adopted a two-year moratorium on merchant coal plants two years ago in response to public outrage over the possibility of a coal plant being developed in Jerome County. That moratorium will expire this spring.
As we did last session, we’ll try to keep you as current as possible on the status of the energy bills you’re interested in – and more important letting you know when any bills come up for public hearings and how you can contact legislators.
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 facility siting, construction moratorium. . . . . .S1314
Major energy facilities, siting certificate. . . . . . . .S1293
Nuclear energy use, public advisory vote . . . . . . . . .S1289
Here’s a look at the three bills introduced this week:
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
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
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
Sponsor(s): Sens. Clint Stennett, Kate Kelly, Eliot Werk, David Langhorst, Mike Burkett.
We also expect possible legislation in the coming days on such topics as greenhouse gas emissions and whether the state should further study and recommend ways to reduce them; whether new state-funded buildings should meet or exceed nationally recognized energy efficiency standards; and whether Idaho should adopt a “renewable energy portfolio standard” to require regulated utilities to acquire a percentage of their power from renewable energy sources; and
II: PUC Gets an Earful on Spending $10 Million from Pollution Credit Sales
There was no shortage of ideas from the public, energy interests and Idaho Public Utilities Commission staff at a workshop Jan. 15 on how to spend $10.1 million generated by Idaho Power’s sale of excess pollution credits. The company sold 35,000 SO2 emission allowances (each allowance represents a ton of emissions) last year for about $20 million.
After brokerage fees and taxes, the amount at issue In Idaho is $10.1 million. Last year, the company took in about $70 million by selling surplus SO2 emission credits, made possible mostly by improving operations at coal plants Idaho Power operates with other utilities. In last year’s case, parties agreed to send 10 percent of the proceeds to company shareholders and 90 percent to ratepayers in the form of a reduced annual “Power Cost Adjustment” to reflect costs of providing power to customers.
This year, Idaho Power said it was looking at other uses for the money, including investing in its own wind farm or buying renewable energy credits (“green tags”) that represent renewable energy. Among the many ideas for how to use the money that surfaced during this week’s workshop:
Public Utilities Commission staff will recommend to the Commission that the money be used as it was last year, going 90 percent to ratepayers and 10 percent to shareholders. That view was echoed by the group representing Idaho Power’s industrial users.
The Snake River Alliance said it could live with that, but stressed it would be better to put the money to longer term use through investments in renewable energy and conservation programs, since they would continue to yield benefits far beyond the one-year Power Cost Adjustment disbursement. Investing the money in long-term clean energy programs would benefit all Idaho ratepayers in the long run, and would also have greater environmental impacts.
Bill Chisholm, on behalf of the Idaho Energy Education Project, said some of the money (say, $500,000), should be used to fund energy education initiatives in Idaho schools and elsewhere to spread the word about the benefits of energy efficiency and conservation. The Alliance supported Bill’s idea as well. Alliance Board Member John Weber said in written comments that the funds could be used to promote solar investments. Wind developers, including Windland (which is developing the Cotterel Mountain project near Albion) and Ridgeline (which built Wolverine Creek near Idaho Falls and has other projects in Idaho) favored Idaho Power investing in wind.
No decisions were made during the workshop. PUC staff attorney Don Howell said he’ll draft a memo to the Commission advising it how the workshop went, and recommending the case go forward under a “modified procedure” and that the Commission set a 21-day public comment period to hear more ideas. As soon as that order is issued, we’ll let you know how you can continue to participate in the case by providing your input.
III: Idaho Power Hearing Ideas on Magic Valley’s Electric Future
Idaho Power on Thursday continued hearing concerns and questions from its community advisory committee as the utility launches work on its Magic Valley Electrical Plan. As it did with the first two plans – in the Treasure Valley and in the Wood River Valley – the company has assembled a diverse collection of interest groups and local officials to learn more about how its far-reaching Magic Valley generation and transmission systems work. Through much of this year, the committee will provide the company with concerns and advice on everything from where to locate new transmission lines and substations to how to reduce the need for new generation through energy efficiencies and conservation programs.
On the Agenda:
► In the Legislature: The Senate State Affairs Committee meets at 8 a.m. Monday in Room 204. The Committee is expected to confirm Jim Kempton to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. On Friday, the Senate Resources and Environment Committee meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 204 to hear Michael Jennings of The Nature Conservancy give a presentation on “Changing Vegetation Patterns Relating to Global Warming.”
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has scheduled a three-day technical hearing on Idaho Power’s proposed rate increase, as well as public hearings on the case in Boise, Chubbuck, and Twin Falls. The company is seeking 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. The rate hike would generate about $64 million. However, PUC staff has recommended smaller increases in all classes. The Commission will hold a technical hearing at its Boise offices Jan. 22-25 to allow Idaho Power, Commission staff and intervening parties to present testimony and exhibits on the case. The public hearings begin with a Jan. 23 hearing at 7 p.m. in the Commission hearing room in Boise, followed by a Jan. 29 hearing at 7 p.m. in the Chubbuck City Council Chambers and a Jan. 31 hearing at 7 p.m. in the Twin Falls City Council Chambers. For more information and 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
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meeting on Jan. 28. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us
► The Idaho Environmental Forum holds its annual Legislative Forecast meeting from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Hoff Building in downtown Boise. Panel discussions include “Moving Past Gridlock”, “Powering Idaho’s Future”, and “Paying for Growth.” For more information, go to www.idahoenvironmentalforum.org
► The Idaho Small Business Development Center will hold a seminar on “The Business of Climate Change – Risk and Opportunity” Jan. 30 at the Boise State University Student Union. The event runs from noon to 5 p.m. and admission is $45. For the agenda and presenters, go to www.idahosbdc.org
► Federal agencies will hold a public meeting Jan. 31 in Boise to hear oral comments on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Energy Transport Corridor Designations in 11 Western states. The Draft PEIS is required in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and sets out proposed “energy corridors” to speed up the siting of pipelines and electricity transmission systems on federal lands in the West. Most of the corridors are located on Bureau of Land Management lands. Other meetings are taking place through Feb. 5. To learn more about the Energy Corridors PEIS and see related maps and other documents, go to http://corridoreis.anl.gov