The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has opened public comment periods on a number of proposed rate changes by Idaho Power, including three increases of less than 1 percent each and a “power cost adjustment” that would cut residential rates by 3.2 percent and overall rates by 6.47 percent.
The company’s annual Power Cost Adjustment filing is getting the most attention. Idaho’s utilities file these cases each year to either recover additional money it needed to spend in times of poor water conditions when it needed to augment reduced hydropower generation with more expensive market purchases, or to refund to customers money that was saved during plentiful water years. Other factors came into play as well, such as an additional $24.8 million in increased costs at a Wyoming coal complex Idaho Power owns in partnership with PacifiCorp. The PUC said comments will be accepted through May 18.
Offsetting part of that rate reduction are the three increases.
The first is an increase of .27 percent as part of Idaho Power’s three-year program to replace old meters with new automated meters. The PUC set May 6 as the comment deadline in that case. Second is a .39 percent “fixed cost adjustment” request to allow Idaho Power to recover fixed costs it lost because its energy efficiency programs resulted in energy savings that reduced revenues, even though the company’s fixed costs remained the same. The PUC also set May 6 as the comment deadline in that case. Third is a .63 percent increase to cover costs associated with contributions to the company’s pension plan. The PUC set a May 16 comment deadline in that case.
Calculating the PCA rate reduction with the three proposed rate increases, the overall rate reduction would be 5.25 percent, or a 1.4 percent decrease for residential customers.
The PUC is also taking public comments through May 14 on Idaho Power’s proposed plan to manage the “green tags” it can obtain from renewable energy projects from which it buys power.
Green tags, also known as “renewable energy credits,” or RECs, can be issued to a utility for every megawatt-hour of renewable energy it acquires. In Idaho Power’s case, it obtained these green tags from the 100-plus megawatts it purchases from the Elkhorn Wind Project in Oregon and the 10 megawatts it purchases from the Raft River geothermal project in Cassia County in south-central Idaho. So long as the company retains those tags, it can claim it is providing customers with that green energy.
Idaho Power at first received permission from the PUC to retire those tags so it could claim the renewable energy benefits and credit them toward possible future federal requirements ordering utilities to provide a percentage of their power from renewable resources. But after industrial customers objected and said the tags should be sold on the market and the proceeds returned to customers, the PUC agreed and ordered Idaho Power to sell the green tags. The result is that, even though Idaho Power is purchasing energy from these two renewable projects and providing it to customers, it cannot claim it’s selling green power because it no longer owns the green tags and because the tags can only be counted by their owner.
Idaho Power then came back to the PUC with its plan on how to manage these green tags in the future – and that plan is what the PUC is receiving comments on. The company said it will sell green tags it receives in the future, but its plan would allow the company to enter into agreements from some renewable energy generators to purchase the tags later on when it becomes evident it will need them to represent it is actually selling green energy, such as when the time comes that the federal government requires it.
To comment on the rate cases, visit www.puc.idaho.gov and click “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-10-12 for the power cost adjustment; IPC-E-10-06 for the automated meter installation case; IPC-E-10-07 for the fixed cost adjustment case; and IPC-E-10-08 for the pension funding case. The PUC’s home page also features a “Comments & Questions” section explaining how to submit comments.
To review the green tags management plan and other documents in this case visit www.puc.idaho.gov and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-08-24. To submit comments click the Comments & Questions link on the PUC’s home page.