Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Case No. IPC-E-09-33, Order No. 32042

August 6, 2010

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

Website: www.puc.idaho.gov

 

Commission accepts Idaho Power planning document

 

Idaho Power Company has fulfilled a requirement to file with state regulators every two years a plan that sets forth how the company intends to serve the electric requirements of its customers over the next 20 years. The plan, called an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), says the company plans to add about 3,000 megawatts of capacity over the next 20 years to meet anticipated load growth.

 

The plan also spells out how the company plans to reduce summer peak load by 323 megawatts by 2012, due largely to demand reduction programs aimed at commercial, industrial and irrigation customers. Energy efficiency programs are forecast to reduce load by 127 average megawatts by 2029, a 53 percent increase over measures included in Idaho Power’s 2006 IRP.

 

Acceptance of the plan by the commission does not necessarily mean the commission endorses all the projects outlined in the plan. Circumstances change, which require updating the document every two years.

 

Idaho Power’s southern Idaho and eastern Oregon territory serves about 486,000 customers, but those numbers are expected to increase to 680,000 at the end of the 20-year plan in 2029. Idaho Power anticipates that summertime peak-load hours will increase by 53 megawatts over the next 20 years and average load by 13 megawatts.

 

To accommodate the load growth over the next 10 years, Idaho Power continues to rely on expanding its demand reduction programs. It also plans to add 540 megawatts of new generation, including the 300-MW Langley Gulch natural gas plant now under construction near New Plymouth. The company plans to add 150 megawatts of wind generation and 40 MW of geothermal generation. Completion of a proposed major 500-kv transmission line from the Boardman Substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway Substation near Melba will make available another 425 MW of capacity to Idaho Power’s customers. An upgrade of the Shoshone Falls hydroelectric facility will make another 20 MW available by 2015.

 

Looking beyond 10 years, the company plans another 1400 MW of generation from natural gas plants and 500 MW from wind. The additional wind assumes completion of the Gateway West Transmission Project, a joint transmission project proposed by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power that would pass through southern Wyoming and southern Idaho.

 

 

In 2008, 78 percent of Idaho Power’s electricity came from existing, low-cost hydroelectric and coal resources. These resources are the primary reason Idaho Power has historically had some of the lowest retail electric rates in the nation. As Idaho Power adds new resources in the future due to load growth and reduced generation from coal, the company asserts that power supply expenses and rates are going to increase.

 

In fact, the Boardman coal plant in Oregon, from which Idaho Power gets about 64 megawatts, is expected to cease operating within 10 years. Groups filing comments in the case, including the Snake River Alliance and the Idaho Conservation League, said the company needs to be more specific about how it intends to meet demand with the elimination or drastic curtailment of coal generation. The commission agreed and asked Idaho Power to include more details in its next plan.

 

The Renewable Northwest Project, along with the Snake River Alliance, expressed concern that Idaho Power may yet include coal in its long-range planning if the cost of any future federal carbon regulation is less than $30 per ton. The groups also oppose too much reliance on new natural gas peaker plants given the price volatility of natural gas.

 

The parties to the case commended Idaho Power for its plans to increase wind and geothermal development and its added reliance on conservation programs to reduce demand on the company’s existing generation. The Snake River Alliance said the recent increase in the customer rider to fund conservation programs -- to 4.75 percent – may not be enough to capture all the potential energy conservation. The commission agreed the conservation programs are necessary, but the issue of what is a fair and reasonable charge for customers to fund those programs is “never black or white. For a regulator, there are considerations of equity and timing and affordability. It is a pocketbook issue for many of the state’s unemployed and economically-challenged.”

 

All the groups encouraged Idaho Power to pursue solar-powered generation. The commission said the recently announced Boise City solar project may provide Idaho Power an opportunity to assess the merits of solar resources.

 

Copies of the commission’s final order, as well as comments from interested parties and Idaho Power’s Integrated Resource Plan, are available 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-09-33.