Letters from the West

Idaho Power CEO talks electric cars, transmission line at shareholders meeting

Ken Miller of the Snake River Alliance arrives at Idaho Power headquarters for the company's 101st annual meeting with two of its electric cars sitting outside.
Ken Miller of the Snake River Alliance arrives at Idaho Power headquarters for the company's 101st annual meeting with two of its electric cars sitting outside.

Idaho Power sees growth in revenue from supplying electric vehicles and is taking steps to make that happen, President and CEO Darrel Anderson told stockholders Thursday at the company’s annual meeting.

Two of the company’s electric vehicles were parked outside its headquarters, part of its effort to show customers that such vehicles make sense, he said. Idaho Power has joined other utilities in allocating 5 percent of its fleet capital budget to buying electric vehicles, Anderson said.

This year, the investor-owned utility promoted legislation allowing charging stations to resell power, a way to help get more charging stations set up.

“At the same time, we have expanded the number of chargers available to employees across the property and recently kicked off a grant program to incentivize other companies and employers to install electric vehicle charging stations,” Anderson said.

As he did in 2015, Anderson highlighted Idaho Power’s environmental programs and said it is shifting toward renewable energy. It continues to depend on coal plants in Nevada and Wyoming, though.

Its Valmy Plant in Nevada is scheduled to close by 2025, but the Bridger Plant in Wyoming is scheduled to remain operating into the 2030s. The company is talking with Rocky Mountain Power, its partner in the Bridger plant, about not making some needed upgrades, which could mean shortening the life of at least part of the plant.

Were he to make the decision today, Anderson said, he’s “leaning against” investing in upgrades.

Overall, Anderson reported a 1.8 percent growth in the utility’s customer base in 2015. The company plans $1.5 billion in capital expenditures over the next five years.

The big push for Idaho Power is to get a new high-power transmission line built between Idaho and Boardman, Ore. Final approval on a route is expected from the Bureau of Land Management by the end of this year, Anderson said. The line is especially important as the utility plans to join a Western states energy market in 2018, which will allow it to buy power almost immediately on the open market from other utilities around the West.

“By expanding the geographic and resource footprint, the Western region can share generation resources, which drives cleaner, more affordable energy into the grid while enhancing reliability,” Anderson said.

Today Idaho Power has the capacity to generate 1,700 megawatts of hydroelectricity and will soon have 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy on-line. That’s not enough to meet its needs, but its a big part of its portfolio.

Anderson said the company is working with customers and communities who are seeking a carbon-free portfolio, which the company hopes one day to be able to provide, but at a cost.

“Until technology evolves, it’s going to be tough to get to a carbon-free society,” Anderson said.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker