Idaho Energy Update
Dec. 6, 2010
Idaho Power wants the Public Utilities Commission to sign off on contracts with six more wind farms in the Mountain Home area, while the PUC also recently approved another 80MW wind contract for a wind farm in eastern Idaho. Meanwhile, the PUC is taking public comments on a request by Idaho Power to return proceeds from the sale of surplus pollution allowances mostly to customers, with a small amount going to shareholders. And the PUC is also holding public meetings this month on a requested rate hike by PacifiCorp, best known in Idaho as Rocky Mountain Power.
I: Idaho Power Wants to Add Six More Wind Farms
Idaho Power has asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to approve contracts with another six wind farms, all being developed in the Mountain Home area by the same firm. The PUC has set a Dec. 17 deadline to receive public comment on the proposed projects and their contracts with Idaho Power.
According to the PUC, the six projects are scheduled to be online by the end of next year. Each is expected to produce about 10 average megawatts a month and the prices paid by Idaho Power will vary according to the seasons of year and time of day. The Cold Springs, Hammett Hill, Mainline, Ryegrass, Two Ponds and Desert Meadow Wind Farms will each have a “nameplate” or maximum production of about 23 megawatts (MW), but factoring in wind variability will produce about 10 average megawatts. All six are in Elmore County and will be run by project managers Maurice Miller and Glenn Ikemoto of San Francisco.
Idaho Power, which currently has more than 200MW of wind on its system or under construction, projects the total amount of wind it will purchase by 2013 or so will surpass 1,100 megawatts, or roughly its minimum electricity load during off seasons. As a result, the utility has joined Rocky Mountain Power in eastern Idaho and Avista Utilities in northern Idaho in asking the PUC to impose what amounts to a moratorium on most new small wind projects, which under law the utilities must accept their power at a price about the same as what the utilities would pay if they had to purchase the power on the open market or produce it themselves. Idaho Power is not asking the PUC to include these six projects in the moratorium, since the contracts were completed before the utilities filed their joint petition to the PUC in early November.
To learn more about the projects, visit the PUC website at www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-10-38, 39, 40, 41, 42, and 43. Comments can be submitted from the PUC’s home page, or by mail to the PUC at P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or by fax to (208) 334-3762.
II: PUC OK’s 80MW Idaho Power Wind Contract
In another Idaho Power wind case, the PUC has approved a contract for an 80 megawatt Rockland Wind project near American Falls. The wind farm, being developed by Ridgeline Energy of Seattle, will consist of 44 turbines and would be operational by the end of 2011. When built, the project will produce enough electricity to power about 15,000 homes.
The contract between Idaho Power and Ridgeline is filed under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which was enacted in 1978 at the height of the 1970s in response to the energy crisis. PURPA requires utilities to purchase power from small energy projects at rates set by state utility regulators. PURPA contracts normally are limited to projects of up to 10MW, but larger projects like this are allowed if the developer and utility can agree on a price. Ridgeline also has two large wind farms near Idaho Falls that are producing energy for Rocky Mountain Power (PacifiCorp) and Southern California Edison.
To review documents in the case, visit www.puc.idaho.gov and then click “File Room” and “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-10-24.
III: Idaho Power’s Pollution Credit Sale Proceeds May Ease Rates
The Idaho PUC is taking public comments on a plan by Idaho Power to return the lion’s share of the proceeds from the sale of pollution credits to customers, although several commenters are urging some of the proceeds to go continue funding energy efficiency education programs in Idaho Power’s service territory.
Utilities like Idaho Power were given thousands of sulfur dioxide emission allowances by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a “cap and trade” program to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and reduce the impacts of acid rain that are caused in part by SO2. Because some of the SO2-spewing coal plants that Idaho Power uses have been partially cleaned up, the utility no longer needs as many pollution credits. It has sold 20,000 of those surplus credits this year, collecting $543,000 after deducting fees. Under a formula worked out in a previous case when it sold surplus SO2 allowances, 95 percent of those proceeds will be returned to Idaho Power customers with the remaining 5 percent going to shareholders.
In an earlier Idaho Power SO2 proceeds case, the PUC agreed to a unique program in which a portion of the proceeds would be devoted to energy efficiency education programs in schools in Idaho Power’s service area. That idea was the brainchild of Bill Chisholm and his Idaho Energy Education Project. While Chisholm and others asked the PUC to devote 8 percent of the customers’ share of this year’s proceeds to more education programs, the PUC decided against it, saying additional energy education funding would wait until the two-year pilot program is completed in June 2011 and then evaluated to determine its effectiveness.
The PUC will take additional public comments on this case through Dec. 23. To review documents in the case or to comment, go to www.puc.idaho.gov and then click “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll down to IPC-E-10-20.
On The Agenda:
► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission its next decision meetings on Dec. 13 and 20. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us. The meetings typically start at 1:30 p.m.
► The Payette County Planning & Zoning Commission resumes its public hearing Dec. 9 on a rezoning request by Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., which is seeking to build a nuclear reactor on agricultural land outside of Payette. The hearing will be a continuation of a 5-hour hearing last Thursday, which was extended to this week at 7 p.m. at the Payette County Courthouse. Thursday’s meeting will feature a response by AEHI to extensive public comment last week.
► The Idaho PUC will hold a series of customer hearings this month to hear public comment on PacifiCorp’s latest general rate case. The company is seeking an increase in general rates by an average of 13.7 percent, which if approved by the PUC would increase revenues by $27.7 million a year. Hearings are planned for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Shelley Senior Citizen Center; 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Mountain View Conference Center in Rexburg; 1:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Grace American Legion Hall; and 7 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Robinson Building at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Preston. In addition, the PUC will hold a telephonic public hearing at 7 p.m. on Dec. 20 at the PUC Hearing Room in Boise. To learn more about the case, visit www.puc.idaho.gov and click “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll down to PAC-E-10-07. Those wanting to participate in the telephonic hearing can call 1-800-920-7487, followed by the Participant Code 76373262.
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance