Letters From the West

PUC holds workshop on Idaho Power rate hike proposal

A recent PUC workshop on net metering.

A recent PUC workshop on net metering.

If you are not particularly happy about Idaho Power’s proposed 8 percent rate hike you might want to attend the Idaho Public Utilities Commission’s workshop Wednesday.

Every June Idaho Power adjusts its rates to include costs of providing reliable electrical service that is not included in its rate structure. This power cost adjustment has often benefited customers since it was started in 1993 when the company made extra money selling surplus power or when there was a high water year that allowed the company to generate more hydroelectricity.

But last year was yet another low water year – a trend that is expected to continue this year. Meanwhile the economy has been slow and the growth in electrical demand both here and elsewhere is down.

That has reduced the price Idaho Power could get for its surplus power just as its generation capacity has grown. Idaho Power built the Langley Gulch Natural Gas Plant and dozens of wind plants across Idaho were added to its system largely against its will by independent developers. Both investments may payoff in the long run but for now they are more than the company needed.

Residential customers would pay an additional 8.03 percent for electricity this year — or an extra $7.28 a month for the typical customer. Customers would pay an extra 4.5 percent in 2014. Irrigation farmers would be hit with a 9.65 percent increase this year and would pay 5.7 percent more in 2014.

Hydropower generation from April 1, 2012, through March 31, 2013 was 1.8 million megawatt-hours less than forecasted, a 19 percent reduction. Surplus sales dropped 44 percent. The cost of renewable energy grew by $62 million and is included in the price adjustment for now.

You can learn a lot about how Idaho Power’s costs have risen at the workshop in Boise at the PUC hearing room, 472 W. Washington St, Wednesday at 7 p.m. Company officials and PUC staff will be there to answer questions.

If you missed the Boise meeting on the proposed Gateway Transmission Line Monday you can still participate at the old gym in Kuna; May 8 at the Owyhee County Museum in Murphy; and May 9 at Melba High School, each from 4 to 7 p.m.


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