A couple of recent opinion pieces on this page point out the need to clarify Idaho Power’s position on wind energy and economic development in Idaho, as well as the way we plan for the long-term energy needs of our customers.
On Aug. 12, Twin Falls business owner (and wind energy manager) Bryce Merrick criticized Idaho Power’s recent efforts to educate our customers about the issues involved with wind and other alternative energy sources.
Let’s be clear: Idaho Power does not oppose wind energy. We don’t favor or disfavor any specific power source. Through bill inserts, online advertising and other channels, we have tried to generate discussion about the role of alternative energy resources, their pros and cons, and our proposals to ensure our customers pay a fair price for electricity.
We don’t expect there to be 100 percent agreement on an issue as complicated as how best to provide round-the-clock energy for half a million customers. But we are glad that so many of you have taken the invitation to get involved in the conversation, and we think our customers are better informed about the issues as a result of our campaign.
Contrary to what Mr. Merrick stated in his opinion piece, Idaho Power customers are not paying for the cost of the ad campaign.
The same can’t be said for energy from wind producers, which Idaho Power is required to purchase, often at prices far above what it would cost to generate from other resources or purchase on the open market. Our customers already are paying higher rates due to these federally mandated purchases. Our request before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission merely seeks to correct this pricing disparity and clarify contractual issues in order to protect customers from further harm.
Mr. Merrick is correct when he says that the wind industry has created investment and jobs in some Idaho communities. However, those benefits are not shared by everyone in Idaho Power’s service area, even though all of our customers bear the costs.
Idaho Power supports economic development. Electric rates that are consistently among the nation’s lowest, along with the fact that our emissions also rank near the bottom among utilities, are strong selling points. We want to continue being able to promote Idaho’s clean, inexpensive energy as an incentive to businesses.
Ensuring fair-priced, responsible, reliable energy over the long term requires careful planning. Idaho Power updates its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) every two years, with input from customers, environmental groups, energy experts and others.
In another Aug. 12 Reader’s View, the Snake River Alliance notes that we are studying our coal resources, which provide a significant portion of the electricity our customers use every year. The current study will evaluate the cost of meeting anticipated new environmental standards at two of the three coal plants in which we have an ownership interest. A third, the Boardman plant in Oregon, is scheduled to be shut down in 2020.
In addition to this study, the IRP includes a “carbon adder” that is used when calculating the long-term costs of operating various resources that emit carbon. In other words, we take the risk of future cost increases into account when evaluating the best way to serve our customers in the future.
Monthly meetings of the IRP Advisory Council (IRPAC) are open to the public. Information is available at www.idahopower.com/irp.
Mark Stokes is power supply planning manager for Idaho Power.