When you turn on the lights, chances are you’re buying electricity from Idaho Power. If so, you need to know this: Idaho Power is a corporation, not a public service agency. Its first responsibility is profits to its shareholders, not to you.
For 10 years, Idaho Power has been making plans with Pacific Power and the Bonneville Power Administration to construct a mega-transmission line from Boardman, Ore., to Hemingway, Idaho. If their final applications are successful, they are guaranteed 6.8 percent profit on that project. Benefit to shareholders: $81 million. Cost to utility customers: $1.2 billion (plus a 20 percent contingency fund).
Perhaps Idaho Power’s initial need projections were reasonable 10 years ago, but technological advances have rapidly changed the power landscape. Improvements in power delivery and storage have paralleled the dramatic changes from landline to cellphone systems. No one is installing more telephone poles, and no one needs this transmission line. The BPA just canceled plans for a similar mega-transmission line across southwest Washington, citing “a shift from the traditional approach, relying on new construction, to embracing a more flexible, scalable, and economically and operationally efficient approach to managing our transmission system.” Unlike their colleagues at BPA, Idaho Power administrators continue to reject compelling evidence that their plans are obsolete.
Because utilities gain more profit from constructing new facilities than from selling power to ratepayers. Conservation, energy efficiencies, and solar and wind power are reducing the income of electric utilities. If your job was to deliver the lowest-cost energy to Idaho ratepayers today, would you build this gargantuan white elephant? No, you would build and support solar and wind energy plants in Idaho, which are the least costly energy sources, and you would give customers incentives to generate and store their own power. If this was your job, everyone would benefit. But if your job was to take money from ratepayers to increase corporate profits, you would want to build a $1.2 billion power line and stick the costs to your customers.
Idaho Power is a greedy energy hog, planning a 300-mile clear cut through forests, farms and private property in Idaho and Oregon in a last-ditch effort to bolster their profit margin. Who will be paying for that utility dinosaur? Not the shareholders. You, as a utility ratepayer.
What can you do? Contact your elected officials, the Idaho and Oregon Public Utility Commissions (208-334-0300) (541-373-7394). Ask why Idaho is ranked No. 33 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy in the nation for energy conservation, while Washington is No. 7 and Oregon No. 8. For information, contact stopB2H@gmail.com.
Additionally, some major food-processing customers and Mountain Home Air Force Base are moving toward power self-sufficiency. If they leave Idaho Power, remaining ratepayers will assume a greater percentage of the financial burden for a new transmission line.
Judith N. Ouderkirk is an Idaho native who lives in Boise.