Letters from the West

Idaho Power chief says coal plant’s closure tied to power line construction

Idaho Power is studying different scenarios for shutting down the Valmy coal-fired power plant in Nevada, and getting its new transmission line running is connected, said IdaCorp CEO Darrel Anderson.

Anderson, speaking at what would be Idaho Power’s 100th annual meeting had it not transformed into IdaCorp, said construction of the 300-mile Boardman to Hemingway high-voltage power line is needed to replace the coal plant’s reliable, on-demand power.

“The sooner we are able to get that project permitted and constructed, the sooner we may have a replacement resource for the Valmy plant,” Anderson told shareholders.

Anderson also committed the company to reduce its carbon intensity goals, which it extended for two years to 2017. He said the company is working with the state and the Environmental Protection Agency on new power plant rules to minimize their impact on customers.

But the proposed rules, under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, present Idaho Power with uncertainty for its old coal plants and even its new Langley Gulch natural gas plant.

“The proposed rule, in its current form, has what we believe would be an unanticipated result in Idaho, which would involve backing down generation from our relatively new Langley Gulch natural gas-fired power plant,” Anderson said. “ From a carbon emission perspective, that does not make sense.”

As at last year’s meeting, the comment period was more relaxed with renewable energy advocates welcomed. Ken Miller, energy analyst with the Snake River Alliance, praised Anderson for the changing atmosphere at the annual meeting and in the utility’s integrated resource planning process. He said his group supports the Boardman to Hemingway line.

Anderson said the company will continue to reduce its carbon emissions over time, but he doesn’t see a carbon-free Idaho Power in his lifetime.

“I see use moving to a carbon-light world,” he said.

Solar has a place in Idaho Power’s portfolio. But with 340 megawatts of solar from developers already under contract and the company with a power surplus until 2025, Anderson didn’t expect the company to build solar plants soon.

Lou Landry, a shareholder from Boise, applauded Idaho Power’s increasing openess and commitment to reducing carbon but urged it to do more.

“At a certain point this approaches a moral issue,” Landry said.

Anderson acknowledged the moral implications but pointed out they go both ways.

“I can’t morally do this and bankrupt a bunch of folks,” he said.