Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Case No. IPC-E-11-11, Order No. 32425

January 6, 2012

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

Website: www.puc.idaho.gov

 

Commission accepts Idaho Power long-range growth plan

 

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has accepted a long-range planning document from Idaho Power Company, but expects the company to continue to address issues raised by the commission and environmental organizations. 

 

Those issues include the company’s continued involvement in the Gateway West transmission line project, evaluating the potential for early retirement of coal plants, the progress of a solar demonstration project and the federal relicensing of the Hells Canyon hydro projects. 

 

The commission requires Idaho’s electric and gas utilities to file an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) every two years detailing how the utilities plan to meet customer demand in 10- and 20-year windows. The commission accepts or rejects the IRP for planning purposes only. The plan may change as circumstances warrant and proposed projects in the plan are considered later on a case-by-case basis when and if they are formally proposed. 

 

Idaho Power expects its customers to increase from 492,000 in 2010 to more than 650,000 by the end of 2030.  Average load is expected to increase by 29 average megawatts (1.4 percent annually) by 2030.  Summer peak hour loads are expected to increase by 69 megawatts (1.8 percent annually).

 

 Idaho Power’s plan continues its emphasis on reducing load through energy efficiency measures and programs that reduce demand by shifting large industrial or irrigation loads off peak-use times.  The utility plans to reduce load by 233 average megawatts annually by 2030 through energy efficiency programs and reduce demand by 351 megawatts by summer 2016. 

 

The utility also expects to have 450 MW available in market purchases of power once the Boardman to Hemingway transmission project is completed, anticipated in 2016. 

 

Long range, the company is looking to completion of a 170-MW single-cycle natural gas plant in 2022 and possibly a 300-MW combined-cycle natural gas plant in 2025.  The company also hopes to obtain 52 MW in geothermal generation, 50 MW from a solar power tower and 60 MW from small hydroelectric projects in 2021 through 2030. 

 

The public is included in the process of writing the company’s IRP.  Members of environmental organizations, major industrial customers, agricultural interests, state legislators, PUC staff and representatives from the state Office of Energy Resources and Northwest Power and Conservation Council participate as members of the Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Council. 

The Idaho Conservation League (ICL), Renewable Northwest Project (RNP) and Snake River Alliance (SRA) said the company’s plans to upgrade its Jim Bridger coal plant but does not provide details on the costs of that strategy as opposed to using alternative sources of generation rather than upgrading the coal plant.    

 

RNP and SRA also said Idaho Power should consider alternatives other than a natural gas plant if the Boardman to Hemingway transmission line is not completed.  That 300-mile, 500-kilvolt transmission line from Boardman, Oregon to Melba, is expected to improve access to markets, meet peak summer capacity needs and increase reliability for Idaho Power customers. 

 

Commissioners from Power County and Cassia County said Idaho Power should reconsider its joint commitment with Rocky Mountain Power to build the Gateway West transmission line from northeastern Wyoming, through south-central Idaho and ending near Melba.   The commissioners say reduced electrical demand and growing doubt that Congress will approve carbon restricting legislation such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system diminish the need to build the 1,100-mile line. 

 

Idaho Power states that increased generation from hydro sources and reduced coal-fired generation have allowed the utility to make progress on its goal to reduce carbon emissions and “emissions intensity” (measured in pounds per megawatt-hour) by 15 percent through 2013.  Idaho Power has more than 1,100 MW of coal resources jointly owned with other utilities in three states: Wyoming (Jim Bridger plant), Nevada (Valmy) and Oregon (Boardman). In 2007, Idaho Power decided not to pursue development of a coal resource in its 2006 IRP and does not include any new coal generation in the 2011 IRP. The Boardman plant is scheduled for decommissioning in 2020. 

In 2010, 48.8 percent of Idaho Power’s generation came from hydroelectric sources, while 43.9 percent came from coal. By 2030, the utility anticipates that 53 percent of its generation will come from hydroelectric sources and 26 percent from coal. 

Both ICL and RNP question the company’s intent to issue bids to build an up to 1-megawatt solar demonstration project.  The project would test new photovoltaic panel technologies, inverters and other mounting and tracking systems.  ICL claims a better step would be to address issues related to solar development including interconnection, net metering standards and integrating distributed systems.  A demonstration project should be focused on rooftop solar, ICL claims.

 

RNP recommended that the company consider geographic dispersion of several solar projects.  RNP claims solar PV is already a mature technology, lessening the need for most of the information Idaho Power hopes to obtain from its demonstration project. 

 

ICL notes that Idaho Power has recorded $153 million in relicensing expense for the Hell Canyon complex through March 2011.  ICL is asking for a “more robust discussion of the company’s efforts and strategy to resolve the relicensing process in a timely manner.” 

 

Two projects from the 2009 IRP are under way. The 300-MW Langley Gulch natural gas plant being built near New Plymouth is scheduled to be online later this year. An upgrade to the Shoshone Falls hydroelectric project, which will provide another 49 MWs, is to be completed in 2016. 

 

A full text of the commission’s order, along with a copy of Idaho Power’s IRP and 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-11-11.

 

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