Letters from the West

Idaho Power decides to stay with regional energy efficiency provider

Idaho Power has proposed investing more than $13 million in energy efficiency programs in collaboration with the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

The application does not change customer rates because Idaho Power’s investment in NEEA energy efficiency programs is funded by a portion of the energy efficiency rider on customer bills, currently set at 4% of a customer’s monthly billed amount. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is taking comment through Dec. 22.

The Alliance is a nonprofit organization that seeks to maximize energy efficiency in four Northwest states through the adoption of energy efficient products, services and practices. It is funded by the Energy Trust of Oregon, the Bonneville Power Administration and by electric utilities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

From 1997-2014, the Alliance delivered 1,024 average megawatts of regional energy savings. Idaho Power’s portion was 28.2 average megawatts.

Idaho Power had earlier said it was going to pull out of the regional group because it could do the same work more cheaply or more effectively. But the utility reached an agreement that would allow Idaho Power to opt out of some of the regional group’s programs.

The 2015-19 plan includes funding for continued research at the University of Idaho Integrated Design Lab and market transformation efforts aimed at acquiring energy efficient lighting, appliances and building materials in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

The Alliance plans to deliver 145 average megawatts of regional energy savings in the four states, for between $145 million and $169 million between 2015 and 2019. Idaho Power’s contribution would amount to 9% of the Alliance’s total budget.

The total cost for the regional group’s programs is 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour or less, considerably less than energy from most other sources.

Under the agreement, the Alliance will hire an independent CPA firm to complete an annual financial audit and internal control review. Idaho Power may reduce or terminate funding if the Oregon or Idaho commissions do not allow Idaho Power to recover Alliance-related expenses; legislation passes that eliminates Idaho Power’s responsibility to provide energy efficiency and demand reduction programs funded by an energy efficiency rider; or if the regional group’s bylaws change in a way Idaho Power opposes.

Warren Kline, senior vice president of customer operations at Idaho Power, said NEEA allows Idaho to better leverage its market transformation investment by building on NEEA’s pooled resources, market research and program design in its four-state area.

“Because NEEA works in markets beyond Idaho Power’s service area, there is a greater likelihood that market changes in Idaho Power’s service areas will be rooted in a regional market,” Kline said in comments filed at the PUC. “Idaho Power’s participation in NEEA enables it to influence the direction of NEEA’s activities to bring direct benefit to Idaho Power customers.”