Letters From the West

Idaho PUC hold workshops on demand response

A hearing before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

A hearing before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will host a series of four workshops beginning July 10 to determine the future of three Idaho Power Co. demand response programs.
The programs offer incentives to customers to reduce electric demand during peak periods like now. Last month, the allowed Idaho Power to temporarily suspend two of its demand response programs and modify another.
So when temperatures rose this week and farmers turned their pumps on high to water thirsty crops and when homes and businesses cranked up their air conditioners, Idaho Power only deferred 35 megawatts of power through its commercial FlexPeak demand response program. It even turned on its usually expensive natural gas peaker plants near Mountain Home.
It hit a new demand peak July 1 of 3,402 megawatts.
The programs temporarily suspended include A/C Cool Credit, which offers residential customers a $7 credit for each of three summer months to allow Idaho Power to remotely cycle air conditioners on and off , Irrigation Peak Rewards, which pays irrigators to turn off irrigation pumps through the use of an electric switch connected to customers’ electrical panels. FlexPeak was only modified for industrial and large commercial customers who volunteer to reduce their electric service loads for short periods during the summer.
The programs are just part of about 20 demand response programs offered by Idaho Power. Overall the utility would have 437 megawatts of demand response power at its disposal if it had not got the programs suspended.
Idaho Power said suspending the programs would save customers the approximate $5.5 million it spent during 2012 on A/C Cool Credit and $12.3 million on Irrigation Peak Rewards.
Instead of simply suspending the programs and leaving the participants up in the air, the commission adopted a negotiated settlement that provides a “continuity payment” of $1 per month to residential customers during three summer months who have been participating in A/C Cool Credit, Irrigators will also receive continuity payments, but the amounts vary depending on which Peak Reward option irrigators chose.
The workshops are part of the review on how the programs should be conducted after this year. Open to the public, the workshops are scheduled for July 10, July 23, Aug. 7 and Aug. 19. All begin at 9 a.m. in the public meeting room of Idaho Power headquarters, 1221 W. Idaho St.

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