Idaho Energy Update
February 22, 2008

Legislators nudged a handful of helpful energy bills toward approval this week, while the Public Utilities Commission signed off on a prolonged settlement agreement dealing with Idaho utilities and wind developers, and the developers of the proposed Bruneau nuclear power plant say they’ve finally paid the $50,000 they promised Owyhee County way back in December.

Also, a special shout out to everyone who attended last night’s NW Energy Coalition Idaho Caucus meeting! The turnout was the best we’ve had for an Idaho Caucus in a long time. It was invigorating to hear the wonderful ideas for advancing clean energy policies in Idaho, as well as the breadth of perspectives on everything from the Bruneau nuclear project to utility regulatory issues, energy legislation at the Statehouse, and how we can work with policy makers to move forward. Thanks to all who attended: Brad Purdy, representing the Community Action Partnerships of Idaho; Jessica Ruehrwein from the Sierra Club; NWEC Board members Wendy Eklund and Mary McGown; Ken Eklund of the Office of Energy Resources, representing himself; Ric Gale from Idaho Power, also an individual NWEC member; Kevin Lewis from Idaho Rivers United; Andrea Shipley from Snake River Alliance; Mike Heckler from Windland; Rich Rayhill from Ridgeline Energy; Joe Weatherby from Owyhee County; John Weber, Snake River Alliance Board member; and of course Jesse Stanley from the NWEC’s Seattle office. A special thanks also to Thomas Hammer, which loaned the coffee shop’s “Bored Room” for the meeting.

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!


Ken Miller
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
(208) 344-9161 office
(208) 841-6982 cell
[email protected]

I: In the Legislature: Green Schools Bill Slows Down; Uranium Plant Subsidies Bill On Tap

The Senate State Affairs Committee threw some roadblocks in front of S1412, a bill sponsored by Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, and also by the GOP leaders of the interim Energy and Environment Committee. The legislation would help Idaho school districts build energy efficient school buildings and would also pay for the needed inspections to make sure the new schools are in fact saving the energy they should. While the bill has bipartisan sponsorship, some members of the Senate panel balked at how the inspections – known as “commissioning” – will take place. Even State Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Curt McKenzie turned the gavel over to his co-chair for the hearing so he could testify in support of the measure before his own committee. After a lengthy hearing on Friday, the committee continued the hearing over to next week. Combined with H422, which easily passed the House and which requires new state-funded buildings to meet modest energy efficiency codes, these two bills give the 2008 Legislature a chance to put up when it comes to implementing the Idaho Energy Plan it approved this time last year.

Also moving along is H432, which passed the House and has been sent to the Senate Resources and Environment Committee. It would direct a portion of Idaho’s share of recent federal geothermal lease sales in Idaho to help fund the historically under-funded state energy department, now the Office of Energy Resources. And H500, which expands the definition of “commercial purposes” for leases on state endowment lands to include a variety of renewable energy endeavors, unanimously passed the House on Friday and has been sent to the Senate.

Also, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee is scheduled to consider two bills on Monday that combined would provide huge taxpayer subsidies to a French-controlled nuclear company that want to import uranium yellowcake into Idaho to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. The French nuclear giant Areva, Inc., has been huddling with Idaho legislators and other state officials to convince them to make Idaho the home of the next nuclear fuel factory. In fact, Areva is also looking at at least four other states for its proposed plant, and appears to be playing them off each other in search of the sweetest taxpayer-funded deal. Idahoans will get their glimpse of what they’re being asked to pony up when two bills come up before Rev and Tax at 9 a.m. on Monday.

On Wednesday, the Senate Resources and Environment Committee will take up SCR128 (see below for details), which is aimed at finding legislative and other solutions the state can take to addressing greenhouse gas emissions. This is another bill that should have a good chance of passage, but probably faces an uphill fight.

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 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
Energy facility, commercial purpose, endowment lands . . . H0500
Geothermal energy electrical production, tax . . . . . . . H0529
Major energy facilities, siting certificate. . . . . . . .S1293
Nuclear energy use, public advisory vote . . . . . . . . .S1289
Renewable energy resources, federal lands, funds . . . . . H0432
Resources Office, collaborative report, energy options. SCR128
School building design, energy efficiency. . . . . . . . .S1412

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.
Contact: 322-1351

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
Contact: 322-1351

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, Elliot Werk, David Langhorst, Mike Burkett.
Contact: 332-1351

Green State Buildings (H422)
Requires new state-financed buildings and major renovations of existing buildings to meet or exceed national energy efficiency codes.
Status: Passed the House 55-11-4 on Feb. 7. Awaiting hearing in Senate State Affairs.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Kate Kelly
Contact: 332-1315

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: Passed the House, 61-8-1 and sent to the Senate, where it has been referred to the Senate Resources and Environment and awaits a hearing.
Sponsor: Office of Energy Resources Administrator Paul Kjellander
Contact: 287-4903

Energy Efficient Idaho Schools (S1412)
Requires school districts to integrate certain design and commissioning procedures for new school buildings to ensure they are more energy efficient.
Status: Hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee began Friday and will resume on Monday.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Elliot Werk (prime sponsor), Curt Mckenzie, Stan Bastian; Reps. George Eskridge, Sue Chew, Eric Anderson
Contact: 322-1000

Geothermal Power Plant Taxes (H529)
Replaces property tax for operating equipment at geothermal power plants with a 3 percent production tax, similar to that enacted last year for wind developers.
Status: Approved by House Revenue and Taxation Feb. 20 and sent to House floor for amendment, probably early next week.
Sponsor(s): U.S. Geothermal, Inc.
Contact: 434-1027

Energy Resource Office – Reporting on Energy Options (SCR128)
A resolution requesting that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the newly created Office of Energy Resources report on opportunities and steps the Legislature can take to meet the goals of the state Energy Plan, particularly regarding how Idaho can address future state, regional or federal greenhouse gas emissions targets, achieve conservation goals, and develop renewable energy resources in Idaho. The report will be due July 1, 2008.
Status: Introduced in Senate Resources Committee; sent to Senate floor for amendments; scheduled for a hearing Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Kate Kelly, Clint Stennett, David Langhorst, and Gary Schroeder; Reps. Wendy Jaquet, Sharon Block and Sue Chew
Contact: 332-1351

Energy Facilities on Endowment Lands (H500)
Expands the definition of “commercial purposes” for leases on state endowment lands to include renewable resources, including fuel cells, low-impact hydro, wind, geothermal, biomass, cogeneration, sun or landfill gas as the primary power source of power for generating facilities of 25KW or less.
Status: Approved 63-0-7 by the House Friday and sent to the Senate.
Sponsor(s): Reps. Eric Anderson, Bob Nonini, Lawrence Denney, Mike Moyle, Scott Bedke, Ken Roberts, George Eskridge, Frank Henderson and Cliff Bayer
Contact: 332-1000

II: Owyhee Nuke Developer Pays Up – Finally
The developer of the would-be Bruneau nuclear power plant in sparsely populated Owyhee County has finally agreed to pay the county the $50,000 it promised to help process its massive application for the power plant – after three requests from the county to pay up.

Don Gillispie, CEO of Alternate Energy Holdings, issued a news release Monday saying he and the county finally came to terms on his payment, and cited a “miscommunication” for his company’s failure to make good on its promise. In fact, there was no miscommunication: Mr. Gillispie’s firm agreed back in December to help allay the county’s mounting costs of processing his land-use application for the power plant. He and his firm also claimed they wanted to set up “correct protocols” on how the county should spend the money AEHI owed. The only misunderstanding in this process has been on the part of AEHI and Mr. Gillispie, who have been taking advantage of Owyhee County from the day this project began.

Coincidentally, the Owyhee County Planning and Zoning Department has set a hearing for March 12 to review an application by Gillispie’s firm for a permit for two towers to gather data at the proposed plant site. Better late than never: The towers were actually erected last November, in violation of county ordinances.

According to The Idaho Statesman, AEHI’s stock trades on the over-the-counter market called the “Pink Sheets” – a market designed for companies that don’t meet the requirements of a larger exchange. Friday’s closing price for AEHI was 21 cents a share.

III: Idaho PUC Approves Settlements in Long-Running Wind Integration Case
In what may be a breakthrough for Idaho’s long-suffering wind developers, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission this week issued orders resolving a three-year-old dispute between wind developers and Idaho’s regulated electric utilities over the cost of plugging wind into the utility’s system.

The Idaho PUC’s orders said there are actual costs borne by the utilities when integrating wind power into their systems, but according to the orders those costs aren’t as high as some utilities argued. The complicated case required years of workshops, meetings, and hearings to resolve, but the conclusion should be that Idaho wind developers now have a better chance of building their projects than they have since 2005, when this case began.
The wind dispute began when Idaho Power sought and received from the PUC a suspension of new small wind projects on grounds the company was required by federal law to accept the power from those projects under the federal PURPA statute. Idaho Power claimed it faced so many new wind proposals that it was concerned about the stability of its system and the costs of the power and to bring that power onto its system. Here’s a portion of the news release issued Thursday by the PUC:

“Since then, Idaho Power Co., as well as Idaho’s two other major electric utilities Avista Corporation and PacifiCorp, completed studies to determine wind integration costs. The utilities and most wind developers proposed a settlement that would bring the size limit of projects that qualify for the small-power rate back up to 10 MW. Further, wind developers proposed to provide more certainty to utilities by agreeing to participate in the cost of acquiring state-of-the-art wind forecasting services and, further, provide guarantees that their projects would be mechanically able to generate at full output during 85 percent of the hours during a month. In exchange for those agreements by wind developers, utilities agreed to support removal of the “90/110 performance band” which required that when output was less than 90 percent of projections or more than 110 percent of projections, utilities could pay developers the usually smaller market-based rate rather than the published rate.”

While the details are involved and complicated, there’s hope this resolution among Idaho’s utilities and its wind developers will clear the way for a more productive relationship, and most important a new future for wind power in Idaho.

To review the PUC’s order and other documents in this case, go to and in the “File Room” and “Electric Cases” go to IPC-E-03, AVU-E-07-02, and PAC-E-0707.

On the Agenda:
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meeting on Feb. 26. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at
►The Northwest Power and Conservation Council meets March 11-13 in Boise. We’ll post agenda items and website information for those items as they become available closer to the meeting date.
► The NW Energy Coalition’s spring conference and board meeting is May 30-31 in Helena. The agenda is being finalized; we’ll have details and registration information soon.