Utilities seek deferral accounts for Grid West attempt
Idaho’s three major regulated utilities are asking state regulators to allow them to defer costs they incurred in attempting to form a regional transmission organization that ultimately was not created.
Idaho Power Company, Avista Corporation and PacifiCorp all seek deferral of costs incurred to form “Grid West.” Establishment of the deferral accounts does not guarantee recovery from customers until after the Idaho Public Utilities Commission determines that the costs incurred were reasonable.
In response to orders issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), utilities in the Pacific Northwest were told to develop an independent transmission operator, or Regional Transmission Organization (RTO). RTOs are designed to enable open and competitive wholesale electric markets so that potential competitors have the same access to regional transmission grids as established utilities.
Grid West was proposed to serve as a non-profit, independent transmission operator to manage and control transmission in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and parts of Montana, Wyoming and California. The Bonneville Power Administration, which dominates ownership of high-voltage transmission lines in the Northwest, decided to withdraw from the Grid West effort. PacifiCorp, after being acquired by MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, also withdrew due to concern over costs, transmission operations and other issues. Several utilities expressed concerns that Grid West would mirror the experience of some RTOs in other regions of the country, which have experienced higher than anticipated operational costs.
Idaho Power says it has loaned $1.27 million to Grid West and expended another $2.6 million in “incremental internal costs.” The Idaho jurisdiction of the total amount loaned and spent is about $3.35 million. Idaho Power also has customers in Oregon.
Avista says it loaned $1.2 million to Grid West. Costs for the utility’s northern Idaho jurisdiction are about $420,000. Most of Avista’s customers are in Washington state.
PacifiCorp, which operates in six Western states and does business as Rocky Mountain Power in eastern Idaho, claims it expended $2.7 million and says Idaho’s jurisdictional costs are $174,000.
The commission is accepting comments on the utilities’ request to create deferral accounts. A deferral of these expenditures will preserve the ability to have the commission consider whether the costs may be recovered in utility rates at a future date.
Those wishing to submit comments must do so by no later than Aug. 14. Comments are accepted via e-mail by accessing the commission’s homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov and clicking on "Comments & Questions." Fill in the case number and enter your comments. For Idaho Power customers, the case number is IPC-E-06-06. For Avista customers, the case number is AVU-E-06-03. For PacifiCorp customers, the case number is PAC-E-06-03. Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.
A full text of the commission’s order, along with other documents related to this case, are available on the commission’s Web site. Click on “File Room” and then on “Electric Cases” and scroll down to any of the above case numbers.