Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Case No. IPC-E-10-46, Order No. 32200
March 9, 2011
Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712
PUC approves changes to Idaho Power irrigation program
Some changes proposed by Idaho Power Company to a program that pays irrigators for shutting down pumps during periods of heavy electrical demand have been accepted by state regulators while others were denied.
Idaho Power’s Irrigation Peak Rewards Program offers incentive payments to irrigators who volunteer to have their service interrupted during peak-use periods from June 15 to August 15. Volunteer irrigators can have their service interrupted up to a maximum of 60 hours per irrigation season. In exchange, they receive a monthly incentive payment in the form of a bill credit during the three summer months. If not for the program, growing customer demand during the summer months would likely require the construction of natural gas peaker plants.
Idaho Power asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to make a number of changes, chief among those splitting the incentive payments into two portions: a fixed payment (40 percent) and a variable payment (60 percent). The company said the change was needed to better align program costs with the actual need for capacity reduction. Idaho Power doesn’t know in advance how many times irrigators will be interrupted, yet the credit is the same regardless of the number of interruptions. During 2010, Idaho Power paid irrigators $11.5 million and interrupted service three times.
The net effect of basing some of the credit (60 percent) on actual interruption would have been to reduce the fixed portion of the credit from $32 per kW to $12.78 per kW, plus another amount paid no more than 60 days after the end of the irrigation season that would be based on actual interruptions.
After taking comments from irrigators, the Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association, the Idaho Conservation League and commission staff, the commission agreed to a 75/25 split with 25 percent based on actual interruption instead of the company’s proposed 60 percent. The result is reduction in the fixed portion of the credit to $25 per kW.
The company’s original proposal could cause customers to drop out, reducing the program’s effectiveness, the commission said.
The commission denied a request by the company to limit program participation based on the company’s need for peak load reduction. The Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association and commission staff also opposed that change. Commission staff said the company should not only accept participants, but should promote the program in order to achieve peak load reduction over the long term.
The commission did agree to a request to add another hour – to 9 p.m. – during which irrigators could be interrupted and agreed to requested changes in opt-out penalties.
The commission’s order is final. A full text of the order, along with other documents related to this case, is available on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on “File Room” and then on “Electric Cases” and scroll down to Case Number IPC-E-10-46.
Interested parties may petition the commission for reconsideration by no later than March 30. Petitions for reconsideration must set forth specifically why the petitioner contends that the order is unreasonable, unlawful or erroneous. Petitions should include a statement of the nature and quantity of evidence the petitioner will offer if reconsideration is granted.
Petitions can be delivered to the commission at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise, mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID, 83720-0074, or faxed to 208-334-3762.