Letters From the West

Idaho Power will depend on new power line, programs to cut demand during peaks

Tom Noll, Idaho Power senior planning analyst shows the Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Council how the utility analyzes risks

Tom Noll, Idaho Power senior planning analyst shows the Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Council how the utility analyzes risks

Idaho Power filed its Integrated Resource Plan with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission and asked the commission to judge if upgrading pollution controls at two of its coal plants in Wyoming is prudent.

The resource plan, filed with commission every two years, says it can meet its demand for the next 20 years by building the 500-kilovolt transmission line from Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway station near Melba and by using programs to manage demand during peak periods. It also would keep its existing hydro, coal and natural gas plants.

The coal plants have been controversial because of efforts to reduce carbon emissions to limit the effects of climate change. Many utilities have replaced aging coal plants with natural gas, which at its current low price produces power for about the same price.

Idaho Power filed a request to recover its investments in emission-control equipment required at the Jim Bridger coal plant in Wyoming. The company owns one-third of the Bridger plant, which comprises four generating units and provides up to 771 megawatts of power for Idaho Power’s customers.

State and federal rules require the installation of new equipment on two units in 2015 and 2016. Cost of the installations will be shared with the majority owner and operating partner of the plant, PacifiCorp. Idaho Power’s share is slightly less than $130 million.

“Both of these filings are the result of careful analysis aimed at finding the least-cost options for providing reliable, responsible energy to our customers while reducing the environmental impact of our operations,” said Lisa Grow, Senior Vice President of Power Supply.

Idaho Power decides its power portfolio after regular monthly meetings with its Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Council, made up of stakeholders from all public and business sectors. Its critics say the company has not adequately studied renewable energy options, especially roof-top solar to meet its power needs at less cost.

The company has been holding these meeting for 11 years. It was criticized last year for kicking the Snake River Alliance’s representative Ken Miller off the panel after the group held a demonstration against its coal plants in 2012.

But John Gardner, director of the Boise State University-based Energy Efficiency Research Institute, said of the four Integrated Resource Planning cycles he’s been on the council, this was the most open and useful for him.

“This IRP process was the best and most substantive I’ve participated in,” Gardner said.

The public will have an opportunity to comment on the 115-page plan during the commissions’ public review processes. Public meetings about the plan will be held across the company’s service area in the fall. The full text of the 2013 IRP is available at www.idahopower.com.

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.

Posted in Letters from the West