Letters From the West

Idaho Power reaches settlement to quit paying to cut peak power use for a year

Idaho Power Co. reached a settlement with irrigators and environmental groups that will allow it to operate its power plants instead of paying customers for using less power during peak periods.

The settlement, which still must be approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, allows Idaho Power to suspend it’s A/C Cool Credit and Irrigation Peak Rewards program for one year so it can make the two program more cost-effective. The utility said because of the economic downturn, it has enough peak power in the summer to meet its needs through 2016.

So Idaho Power says generating power from its own plants, including the recently completed Langley Gulch natural gas plant near New Plymouth, will be cheaper than paying air conditioner customers $5.5 million and irrigation farmers $12.3 million to use less power during peak power demand.

Any savings will go back to all Idaho Power customers through the annual power cost adjustment, Idaho Power officials said.  The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is taking comments on the proposed settlement through March 11.

Idaho Power officials said they expect 85 percent of customers who signed up to participate in the “A/C Cool Credit” and Irrigation Peak Rewards programs to keep the devices the company installed to control their power use. If the air conditioner customers  don’t, and then later want to rejoin the program, they will face an $85 reconnection fee.

Irrigators who have equipment removed may not be allowed back into the program.

Air conditioner customers will get a dollar a month for keeping the equipment instead of the $7 they were paid. Farmers also will get paid based on past use. Irrigators would also receive continuity payments, under the proposed settlement, but the payment amounts vary depending on which Peak Reward option irrigators chose.

The two programs were very successful when they were created in 2003 and 2004.

In 2012 the two programs and an industrial demand control program reduced Idaho Power’s peak use by 367 megawatts.

In addition to Idaho Power, the settlement was reached with the commission staff, the Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association, the Idaho Conservation League and the Snake River Alliance.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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