Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Case No. IPC-E-08-22, Order No. 30900

September 17, 2009

Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712

 

Oral arguments, technical hearing set in contested case

 

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has scheduled oral arguments and a technical hearing in an Idaho Power Co. request to increase and update charges assessed new customers and developers for line installations and service attachments.

 

After an order was issued granting the changes, the Building Contractors Association of Southwestern Idaho challenged one portion of the order and the Ada County Highway District, the Association of Canyon County Highway Districts and the City of Nampa challenged another section.

 

In an order issued last month, the commission granted reconsideration on some of the contested issues.

 

An oral argument regarding the issues contested by the highway districts has been set for Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 1 p.m. in the commission hearing room, 472 W. Washington St. in Boise.

 

A technical hearing on the issues contested by the building contractors has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 9 a.m. in the commission hearing room.

 

The changes increase line installation charges and remove some refunds developers are now receiving. “We are asking the IPUC to accept these changes to the tariff to shift a greater portion of the cost of new construction for services from our existing retail customers to those developers and new customers requesting the construction,” said Ric Gale, Idaho Power’s vice president of regulatory affairs, at the time the company made its application.

 

Highway districts’ objection

 

The highway districts and the City of Nampa are opposing a new section of the tariff, which addresses who is responsible for the costs of utility line relocation.

 

When utility line relocation is requested by local or state government for transportation or other public improvements, Idaho Power and its customers pay for the relocation. Idaho Power has no issue paying for utility relocations for public benefit, but objects to having its customers pay for what it deems to be private or third-party benefit. “Idaho Power customers in Pocatello do not benefit from roadway improvements for a new shopping center in Nampa, but they currently pay for relocation costs in excess of the public benefit in their rates,” Idaho Power states.

 

New language in the tariff, called Section 10, would give Idaho Power an opportunity to seek reimbursement for utility relocation requested by third party beneficiaries for private development.

 

The highway districts and the City of Nampa claim they have “exclusive authority and jurisdiction” over public rights-of-way, including the exclusive power to determine who pays for utility relocation. Further, they claim the order’s definitions of “local improvement districts” and “third party beneficiary” are overly broad and vague.

 

Idaho Power claims the highway districts’ authority to require relocation does not give the districts sole discretion to decide if the utility will receive any subsequent reimbursement from third parties that benefit from the relocation. The commission does have authority, Idaho Power argues, to regulate how utilities will recover the expense of facility relocation in rates, including the ability to require beneficiaries of relocation to contribute to the cost. “Such contributions benefit the rate paying public by reducing upward pressure on rates,” Idaho Power said.

 

Given the complexity of the constitutional and jurisdictional arguments posed by the districts and Idaho Power’s acknowledgement that some terms should be clarified, the commission granted reconsideration and will hear oral arguments on the disputed language in Section 10.

 

 

Building contractors’ objection

 

In its July order, the commission ruled that, effective Nov. 1, developers of subdivisions and multiple-occupancy projects will receive from Idaho Power a $1,780 allowance for each single-phase transformer installed within a new development and a $3,803 allowance for each three-phase transformer. The same allowance is provided for each single-phase and each three-phase service customer outside a subdivision. Developers will be responsible for any costs above the allowance.

 

The increased allowance was adopted in place of an $800 per lot refund developers now get as customers move on to the lots and begin receiving electric service. However, developers can still get “vested interest refunds” for additional line installations inside a subdivision that were not part of the initial line installation.

 

The building contractors maintain the allowance “approves an inherently discriminatory rate structure” by imposing unequal charges for new customers receiving the same level of service as existing customers. They allege that the disparity between the allowance provided to customers outside of subdivisions ($1,780 and $3,803 per customer) and those inside subdivisions ($1,780 and $3,803 per transformer) is unfair.

 

Documents related to this case can be found on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on the electric icon, then on “Open Electric Cases,” and scroll down to Case No. IPC-E-08-22.