Letters From the West

Idaho PUC urges Idaho Power to work collaboratively on demand reduction

A hearing before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

A hearing before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

Idaho Power has a job to do to convince the Idaho Public Utilities Commission it is committed to energy efficiency and programs to reduce electricity demand.

The perception of green energy activists and others has been that Idaho Power is more interested in generating power that brings profits to its stockholders than expanding energy efficiency programs that in the long run save is customers money. Idaho Power strenuously denies this but now the commission has joined the chorus.

“We are concerned that the company’s recent actions have fostered a stakeholder perception that the company is retreating from its (demand-side management) commitments,” the commission said in an order approving most of Idaho Power’s energy efficiency and demand-side spending.

The commission said the company’s decision to back off programs to manage air conditioners and irrigation pumps it approved along with its pulling out of regional and state energy efficiency groups may have been warranted but were not done collaboratively with the utility’s own Energy Efficiency Advisory Group.

“Based on the record in this case, we remain concerned that the company does not fully utilize the (advisory group) and proactively and collaboratively involve the (advisory group) in (demand side)-related decisions,” the commission said.

Idaho Power has 15 energy efficiency programs, two energy efficiency education programs and three demand-response programs, all of which are reviewed to determine cost-effectiveness. The programs must pass three cost-effectiveness tests to ensure that the cost of the programs does not exceed the benefit. One of the tests, the Total Resource Cost test, must show that all customers benefit from the programs, not just those who directly participate in them.

The air conditioner cycling and irrigation load control programs have been resumed for the 2014 summer season after the commission, company and interested parties agreed on revisions to make the programs more cost effective.

In 2012, Idaho Power said it was pulling out of the regional Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance after the contract between the two expires later this year. Idaho Power also declined to help fund research efforts at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies Energy Efficiency Research Institute.

This came you might remember, after Gov. Butch Otter announced the program with retired IdaCorp CEO Lamont Keen standing at his side.

Idaho Power said it declined to fund the research because it could not agree with the participating universities about publication rights associated with the research. It essentially wanted the ability to control what becomes public, which the Idaho universities could not do and claim independence.

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