Idaho Energy Update
May 2, 2008
With the 2008 Legislature fading in the rear-view mirror, attention will soon turn to a number of utility regulatory matters this spring and summer, as well as possible action by the Legislature’s interim Energy Committee. We’ll know more next Friday when the Legislative Council meets to appoint interim committee members. Meanwhile, the PUC has its plate full with Idaho Power’s request to increase its energy efficiency tariff, and it will also be considering whether to spend some extra pollution credit sales proceeds to Idaho Power to create an energy education program. Also, Ridgeline Energy finally received approval by the Bingham County Planning and Zoning Commission for its 150-turbine project on the ridges east of Blackfoot.
See below for more information on these and other developments.
Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them my way!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
(208) 344-9161 office
(208) 841-6982 cell
I: Bingham County P&Z Approves Ridgeline’s 450MW Wind Farm
After months of delays and reconfigurations of the project, the Bingham County Planning and Zoning Commission has approved a 150-turbine, 450MW wind farm proposed by Ridgeline Energy in the Wolverine Canyon area of Bingham County, just south of the company’s existing 64.5MW Wolverine Creek project that’s selling power to Rocky Mountain Power.
Action on the project has been delayed for a number of reasons, chief among them opposition by some residents who objected to the turbines’ visual impact on the ridges. Ridgeline withdrew its application last year to attempt to resolve those issues, and on April 24 the county P&Z approved the project and sent it to the County Commission for final approval.
“The Goshen South project will more than double Idaho’s wind energy production,” Ridgeline Energy VP Rich Rayhill said. “It will help to diversify the region’s energy supply and continues southeastern Idaho’s tradition of clean energy generation.”
Ridgeline says Goshen South’s turbines will have a 200-acre footprint out of the project area’s 20,212 acres. Kelly Bingham, who owns the property, said most of the land will remain in agricultural and recreational use.
The project will employ more than 200 workers during construction, and is expected to generate between $24 million and $100 million in tax revenues to Bingham County, depending on such variables as electricity prices and how much power the project produces.
The project is expected to break ground in 2009 and be complete by 2010. For more information on Ridgeline, visit www.ridgelineenergy.com
II: Workshops Set for Idaho Power’s Proposed Power Surcharge Increase
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will hold hearings next week on Idaho Power’s proposed surcharge to recover higher costs to provide power to customers. The annual “power cost adjustment” (PCA) case leads to increases or decreases in ratepayer bills, depending on such things as hydro conditions and factors affecting other fuel costs such as natural gas prices, which change annually.
The company says poor water conditions last year were a big driver in forcing it to spend about $163 million to buy additional power and natural gas to meet demand. Should the PUC agree, that would mean an extra 10.3 percent on customers’ bills beginning June 1, and that’s on top of the increase that followed the company’s recent rate case.
PUC staff has set three hearings in the company’s service territory to explain Idaho Power’s application and field questions. The workshops all begin at 7 p.m. and begin Tuesday in the Newberry Building on the corner of Clark and Main Streets in Pocatello, followed on Wednesday at the Twin Falls City Council chambers, and Thursday at the PUC headquarters in Boise at 472 W. Washington Street.
The PUC will also take written comments via mail or e-mail through May 20. For more information, go to the PUC’s site at www.puc.idaho.gov and go to “file room” and then “electric cases” and go to IPC-E-08-07 to find the news release and related documents on this case.
III: May 15 is Deadline to Comment on Idaho Power Conservation Program
The deadline is May 15 for those who want to weigh in on Idaho Power’s proposal to increase ratepayer support for the company’s energy efficiency and conservation programs.
Idaho Power has asked the PUC to approve an increase from the current 1.5 percent of base revenues to 2.5 percent to boost funding for the company’s “demand response” and energy efficiency programs, which are designed to reduce the amount of electricity the company needs during times of peak use as well as to reduce overall consumption. The company says the 1 percent increase in what’s known as a tariff rider would generate an additional $16 million, up from the current $9 million, to fund energy-saving programs.
To review the proposal, the Commission’s order, and related documents, go to the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us and go to the File Room, then Electric Cases, and then to IPC-E-08-03.
IV: Big Sky Dairy to Sell Methane-Fueled Power to Idaho Power
Idaho Power has filed an application with the PUC to enter into an agreement with Big Sky Dairy, which is located near Gooding, to purchase 1.5MW of power from two gas-powered engines associated with the dairy’s biodigesters.
According to the application (which can be found on the PUC’s website in the file room and electric cases at IPC-E-08-09), the diary will be responsible for building and operating an anaerobic digester adjacent to the dairy. Methane gas from the dairy will fuel two 750KW engines to produce the 1.5MW Idaho Power will purchase under a Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) contract.
The facility is expected to begin operating by February.
V: PUC Rolls Pollution Credits Into Rates; Sets Aside $500,000 for Education
In a case closely watched by clean energy advocates, the Public Utilities Commission decided to return an estimated $16 million received by Idaho Power from sales of surplus pollution credits to ratepayers. The money became available after Idaho Power sold sulfur dioxide (SO2) allowances that it no longer needed after cleanup operations at a Wyoming coal plant it co-owns. To its credit, Idaho Power suggested innovative ways to use the proceeds, including investing them in future renewable energy projects or perhaps buying “green tags” – or attributes from other renewable projects. The other option – essentially embraced by the PUC – was to include the money in the annual power cost adjustment (PCA) mechanism, as referenced above. Given the modest benefit ratepayers would receive from the one-time transfer of the funds to the PCA, clean energy advocates agreed with the utility that the money could be better leveraged in longer-term clean power investments.
While the PUC disagreed, the good news is that it set aside $500,000 to develop classroom education programs about energy efficiency and conservation, and other efficiency programs. That novel idea was advanced by Bill Chisholm of the Idaho Energy Education Project, who subsequently submitted more details in response to PUC requests to flesh out his proposal.
It now appears that the PUC will soon open a new case to delve further into how that $500,000 can be used for education and conservation programs. We expect such an order soon, and that others can join Bill’s insightful proposals to stretch this money well into the future.
VI: Ohio Becomes 26th State to Adopt an RPS
More than half of all states have now adopted some form of a renewables portfolio standard, following a unanimous vote in the Ohio Senate which requires the state to obtain 12.5 percent of its electricity to come from renewables and a 22 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2025.
The goal of an RPS is to set targets, or in some cases goals, that states must meet as they increase the amount of renewable energy in their overall electricity portfolios. Idaho has not considered an RPS, and despite overwhelming public support for setting targets among Idahoans, Idaho policymakers and utilities have long resisted implementing an RPS in the Gem State.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Ohio’s new RPS should lead to at least $10 billion in new wind energy investments.
On the Agenda:
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on May 6, 12, and 19. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us
► The Idaho Legislature’s Legislative Council meets at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 9. Agenda items include a review of the past session, but at 1:30 p.m., the council will appoint interim committee members. We’ll be keeping an eye out for what if anything is in store for the interim Energy Committee, which if it meets this summer and fall should take up possible energy legislation for the 2009 session.
► The NW Energy Coalition’s spring conference and board meeting is May 30-31 in Helena. Go to www.nwenergy.org for registration and other information, including the draft agenda.
► The Idaho Green Expo runs May 17-18 at the Boise Centre on the Grove in Boise. See www.idahogreenexpo.org for more information.