Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Case No. PAC-E-08-03, Order No. 30657

October 10, 2008

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


Utility gets certificate for eastern Idaho transmission line


PacifiCorp’s application to add to its Idaho certificate in order to build a transmission line to send power from remote wind sites in Wyoming and Idaho to urban load centers has been approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.


 The 345-kilovolt transmission line will extend from an existing substation southwest of the Salt Lake City airport north to a new substation at Downey. In Idaho, the line extends through Bannock and Oneida counties.


Cost of the project is $750 million, but only about 3 percent of that is allocated to Idaho customers in PacifiCorp’s six-state territory. PacifiCorp did not request rate recovery at this time and won’t do so until after the line is operational, which is anticipated for December 2010. Construction is expected to begin this month.


The commission received about 34 customer comments, most from customers who did not approve of the location of the Downey substation or the alignment of the transmission line. The Idaho commission does not have the authority to choose the location or the alignment of transmission projects. Those decisions are made by local planning and zoning commissions, city councils and county commissions. The commission’s role is to determine if the project is necessary to meet customer demand and if the project does not interfere with the transmission lines or plants of another public utility. The need for the line was not refuted in customer comments.


The commission’s order issued today said PacifiCorp’s application satisfies the requirements outlined in Idaho statutes. “Thus, we approve PacifiCorp’s application. … In doing so, the commission emphasizes that this order does not approve any particular siting or alignment – that is primarily a responsibility of local government.”


The commission did say that the company should have involved local government officials and citizens earlier in the process. “Soliciting public input during the early planning stages of such a large-scale transmission project could go a long way toward satisfying or alleviating some of the questions and concerns which inevitably arise surrounding the alignment and siting of transmission line on private property.”


PacifiCorp did sponsor open houses to address community concerns and did re-align an Idaho section of the project from an original alignment to address citizen complaints. PacifiCorp has received the necessary permitting from Idaho local officials, but the company still awaits final approval from county officials in Box Elder County, Utah, and from city officials in Willard City, Utah.


In a 2007 planning document filed with the Idaho commission, PacifiCorp said it intended to acquire additional transmission capacity to accommodate current and planned generation projects that can provide an additional 2000 megawatts of renewable energy to customers. Most of that energy will come from remote wind projects in Wyoming and Idaho. “It is a reality that a majority of viable wind projects are located some distance from the metropolitan areas that often represent an electric utility’s primary load centers,” the commission said. One of the Idaho projects that will benefit from the transmission line is the Goshen wind project in Bingham County.


Increased transmission capacity gives utilities more options to find cost-effective power supply sources, either from the utility’s own generation or from generators on the wholesale market. It also improves reliability, resulting in fewer outages. This project is designed to enhance energy delivery and reliability between PacifiCorp’s eastern control area (Wyoming, eastern Idaho and Utah) and its western control area (Oregon, Washington and northern California).


A full text of the commission’s order, along with other documents related to this case, is available on the commission’s Web site at Click on “File Room” and then on “Electric Cases” and scroll down to Case No. PAC-E-08-03.


Interested parties may petition the commission for reconsideration by no later than Oct. 31. 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.