Idaho Energy Update
October 27, 2011
Welcome to the Get Involved Edition of the Idaho Energy Update. A number of public comment and engagement opportunities are on tap this month, beginning with Idaho Power public meetings in four cities next week on its Integrated Resource Plan along with a PUC comment deadline on the plan set for Nov. 14. The Legislature’s Interim Energy Committee is also scheduling a day of public comment Nov. 2 and a meeting on Nov. 3 on its efforts to rewrite the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan, while the PUC is holding public hearings three cities on Idaho Power’s big 2011 rate case. Last but not least, FRIDAY IS THE DEADLINE to comment to the BLM on the huge proposed Gateway West transmission project that would span southern Idaho. For more information on these developments and coming events, read on. Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Idaho Power Hits the Road to Discuss 2011 Resource Plan
Idaho Power will hit the road next week to hold public meetings to explain its 2011 “Integrated Resource Plan,” which serves as the utility’s roadmap for meeting its new energy needs over the next 20 years. The IRP was submitted to the Public Utilities Commission in June, and the PUC is taking public comments on the plan until Nov. 14.
Idaho Power’s public meetings will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night at the following locations: Nov. 1 at Idaho Power’s corporate headquarters at 1221 W. Idaho St. in Boise; Nov. 2 at the Pocatello Red Lion at 1555 Pocatello Creek Rd. in Pocatello; Nov. 3 at the Red Lion Canyon Springs at 1357 Blue Lakes Blvd. N. in Twin Falls; and Nov. 8 at the Four Rivers Cultural Center at 676 SW Fifth Ave. in Ontario.
The PUC does not formally “approve” the every-other-year IRP but rather “accepts” it as a guide for how the company will meet future requirements. The IRP was developed over the course of about a year by Idaho Power and its IRP Advisory Council (IRPAC).
Idaho Power projects its average energy needs will increase about 1.4 percent a year over the planning period, while its “peak” or maximum power needs will increase about 1.8 percent annually over the same time. That means the company’s maximum power needs – those that usually occur in the summer when irrigators are running their pumps more and residents are relying more on their air-conditioners – are outstripping the company’s average energy needs. Because utilities must have resources or access to resources to meet their highest demands (with a reserve to boot), they must plan for their maximum loads. That underscores the need to use energy-saving measures to reduce those electricity “peaks” as much as possible to avoid the need for expensive “peaking” natural gas generating plants that are needed only to meet peak demand during a few times of the year.
For Idaho Power’s first 10-year planning period, which is most important because it covers the times it expects to add resources in the near term, the company plans to rely heavily on its proposed Boardman to Hemingway transmission line from Canyon County to the Boardman area on the Columbia River. That transmission line is designed to augment existing lines that are often at capacity at times when Idaho Power can ship excess power to the Pacific Northwest when it has excess power, and vice-versa when it is short on electricity. Idaho Power will also rely on its big new 300-megawatt Langley Gulch gas-fired power plant, expected to be operating near New Plymouth in mid-2012, to meet additional demands. If the Boardman-Hemingway transmission project is delayed or isn’t built, Idaho Power would probably rely instead on building additional natural gas generation plants.
The company’s second 10-year planning period might include solar, geothermal, small hydro resources, as well as new gas generators. But given that the plan is updated every two years, resources included in the second 10-year period tend to be somewhat speculative.
Idaho Power’s IRP is on the PUC’s website at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and then scroll to IPC-E-11-11. You’ll see the plan and supporting documents and also comments. The PUC is taking comments from the public through Nov. 14. You can comment online at the above website and by clicking on “Comments and Questions about a Case” or you can fax them to (208) 334-3762 or mail them to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074.
You can also review the IRP and materials from the year-long IRPAC process at Idaho Power at http://www.idahopower.com/AboutUs/PlanningForFuture/irp/2011/default.cfm
Meanwhile, Spokane-based Avista Utilities, which serves electricity and natural gas customers in northern Idaho, has also filed its 2011 IRP, which relies on a mix of wind power, energy efficiency, upgrades at existing generation facilities, and new gas-fired power plants. Public comments are due in the first week of December. Information in that case can be found at the PUC’s website above and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and then scroll to AVU-E-11-04.
II: PUC Commissioners Trump Staff, Approve Solar Contract with Idaho Powers
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved a contract between Idaho Power and Boise- based Interconnect Solar Development that calls on Idaho Power to purchase Interconnect’s energy in a novel pricing arrangement for the next 25 years.
Interconnect’s Murphy Flats solar project, planned for 125 acres in Owyhee County near Murphy, would produce up to 20MW for Idaho Power. Interconnect’s contract with Idaho Power anticipates a July 2012 date for delivery of its first energy to the utility. Owyhee County officials approved Interconnect’s project late last year.
PUC staff had recommended that commissioners reject the contract, questioning whether the rates to be paid by Idaho Power’s customers will be higher than if the utility purchased the power on the market or generated its own power. The staff also questioned whether Interconnect can meet its July 2012 generation deadline. Earlier this year, staff found some miscalculations in the contract that required the parties to go back to the drawing board and develop the contract that the PUC approved this month.
Interconnect Solar told the PUC it’s responsible for meeting the deadline and will pay damages if it doesn’t. “The project’s optimism may prove to be foolhardy,” commissioners wrote in their order. “Interconnect Solar maintains its position that interconnection will occur ahead of Idaho Power’s estimated schedule at its own peril.”
This is Idaho Power’s second contract with a solar developer. The state’s largest electric utility signed a deal last year with Grand View Solar PV One and its 20-megawatt solar field that is planned for 180 acres near the Simplot Grand View Land and Livestock Group headquarters, about 16 miles from Mountain Home Air Force Base. If built, that Elmore County project could produce enough energy to power 6,000 homes, depending on the time of year.
To learn more about the Idaho Power-Interconnect Solar case, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-11-10.
III: Legislators Extend Comment Deadline on Energy Plan Revisions, Hearing Nov. 2
The Idaho Legislature’s Interim Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee has extended the public comment deadline on possible revisions to the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan to Nov. 4, and has set a public comment session for Nov. 2 at the Statehouse.
Lawmakers decided at their Oct. 20 meeting to extend the comment period after the Office of Energy Resources and its Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance (ISEA) submitted proposed revisions to the Energy Plan just one week ahead of the old Oct. 21 comment deadline, leaving little time for public review. The Interim Energy Committee’s Nov. 2 meeting will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium (Room WW02). The Nov. 3 meeting will be from 8 a.m. to noon in the House Majority Caucus Room (E403). The agenda for the Nov. 3 meeting has not been finalized.
The Interim Committee is reviewing the 2007 Energy Plan and is preparing a 2012 Energy Plan that will be submitted to the Legislature for approval in the coming 2012 session. While the Legislature spent $300,000 and more than a year to draft the current plan, it has few resources to undertake a major overhaul this year. Instead, the Interim Committee asked the ISEA to review the plan, update its data, and consider possible new recommendations. That draft is available for public review at the website below.
The early Energy Plan review process has not gone without criticism. The ISEA is served by multiple “task forces” of volunteers who specialize in such things as energy efficiency and wind and solar and carbon issues and who then issue task force reports on the findings. But the ISEA’s Board of Directors that filters the task force reports is dominated by Idaho’s utilities that could be impacted if some of the Energy Plan’s policies and action items were to be implemented. The ISEA Board doesn’t include representatives of residential or small business utility customers or conservation interests. Such stakeholder groups are represented on most utility planning committees. Among the ISEA Board’s draft energy plan are recommendations that would do away with tax and other incentives for investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency by businesses and homeowners.
Public comments can be e-mailed to [email protected] or snail-mailed to Energy, Environment, and Technology Interim Committee, Legislative Services Office, P.O. Box 83702, Boise, ID 83720-0054. To review the ISEA updates, public comments, and other documents regarding the Energy Plan rewrite, go to the Legislature’s homepage at http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/ or http://legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2011/interim/energy.htm
IV: PUC Plans Hearings in Idaho Power Rate Case
The Public Utilities Commission has scheduled public hearings in the Idaho Power’s pending rate case, which recently was marked by a proposed settlement agreement among the utility and several other parties.
The settlement doesn’t end Idaho Power’s rate case. The PUC would still have to accept the terms of the agreement, and even then there are some unresolved issues that will likely move on to a hearing later this year. The agreement could resolve some of the larger and potentially contentious financial and rate issues, however, such as the utility’s revenue requirement and the rate of return it is allowed to earn. Three conservation parties, including the Snake River Alliance, Idaho Conservation League, and NW Energy Coalition, were among the parties agreeing to the settlement.
Idaho Power originally sought an increase in of an average of 9.9 percent and a revenue increase of about $83 million. Under the agreement, the revenue increase would be reduced to $34 million and the rate increase would be about 4 percent. The monthly service charge for residential customers would rise from $4 to $5.
Among the unresolved issues that will be argued at a Dec. 5 technical hearing at PUC’s Boise headquarters are funding levels for low-income weatherization program and the percentage amount of the energy efficiency “rider tariff,” the 4.75 percent of bills that customers pay each month to fund the company’s energy efficiency and conservation programs. The parties also agreed to open a separate case for the company’s request to make permanent its pilot project that “decouples” the company’s revenues from power sales and its energy savings from efficiency program. The mechanism is designed to remove disincentives for energy efficiency programs, which if successful would lead to reduced energy sales. This pilot mechanism provides for very small upward or downward rate adjustments depending on how much energy savings the company realizes, so the company is made whole even if it sells less power. Idaho Power filed that new case, as expected, on Oct. 19.
The PUC scheduled three public hearings at which customers can testify regarding the proposed settlement. They all begin at 7 p.m. and will be Nov. 3 in the Power County Courthouse Annex, 500 Pocatello Ave., American Falls; Nov. 9 at the Gooding County Planning and Zoning Building, 145 Seventh Ave East in Gooding; and Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in the PUC hearing room at 472 Washington St. in Boise.
To review the settlement stipulation and other documents in this case, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then click “File Room” and “Electric Cases” and scroll down to IPC-E-11-08.
V: Today’s the Deadline to Comment to BLM on Big Gateway West Power Line
Comments are due Friday, Oct. 28, on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Idaho Power-PacifiCorp Gateway West transmission project, a, 1,100-mile long high-voltage line that would span southern Wyoming and southern Idaho.
The project would run from Glenrock, Wyo., to Idaho Power’s Hemingway substation near Melba in southwest Idaho. According to the utilities, the line would supplement existing east-west transmission that is often congested, increase capacity of the current transmission lines, and improve grid reliability. Among the possible effects of the project, as identified in earlier scoping meetings, are impacts to visual and cultural resources, wildlife and plants, wetlands and water resources, air quality, noise, and environmental justice. The plan also examines the need for the project, which some dispute.
The heart of the draft EIS is an analysis of the various routes that were studied. The study describes the purpose and need of the project, alternatives studied, and environmental protection plans and measures. Residents and many Idaho communities have raised concerns about the various proposed routes and the impacts they might have on everything from agriculture operations to environmental damage and reduced property values. Questions have also been raised about how much of the line should cross federal lands, as opposed to private property or state and local government-owned lands. To comment and review the Gateway West DEIS, go to www.wy.blm.gov/nepa/cfodocs/gateway_west/index.html
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Oct. 31 and Nov. 7, 17, and 28. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.idaho.gov The meetings typically start at 1:30 p.m.