This hasn’t been the best of months for wind and solar projects in Idaho, what with the PUC hitting the brakes on no fewer than 14 wind projects while utilities and renewables developers accused each other of dealing in bad faith over wind and solar contract negotiations. In an Oregon case with ramifications for two of Idaho’s electric utilities, the Oregon PUC has questions about the huge amount of coal-fired generation in PacifiCorp’s energy portfolio. PacifiCorp is known in southeastern Idaho as Rocky Mountain Power, while Idaho Power gets most of its coal generation from the Bridger coal plants in Wyoming, which are mostly owned by PacifiCorp. Intermountain Gas customers are in store for a rate cut due to abundant gas supplies nationwide, and the BLM has finally released its draft EIS for the big proposed Gateway West transmission line targeted for southern Idaho. Finally, the Snake River Alliance is planning a series of three workshops to explore its new energy guide, Idaho’s Clean Energy Future, and to discuss current energy issues in Idaho. For more information on these developments and coming events, read on. Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
 
Ken
 
Solar was in the news the past couple of weeks, with Idaho Power and partner Interconnect Solar Development submitting a contract to state regulators for what may become Idaho’s first utility-scale solar project. Meanwhile, a north Idaho company nailed down a second contract from the federal government as it pushes ahead on its dream to integrate solar panels into the nation’s roadways, parking lots, and other surfaces. Also, the PUC is beginning work on two large rate cases filed by Idaho Power and Avista Utilities, while Idaho Power’s latest “integrated resource plan” – its roadmap to meet future energy needs – has been filed with the PUC and will soon be open to public comment. For more information on these developments and coming events, read on. Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!

Ken
 
Responding to inquiries from Idahoans wanting a greater voice in how their utilities operate and where they get their power, the Snake River Alliance has released “Idaho’s Clean Energy Future,” a free booklet available for download that walks readers through the world of Idaho’s electricity industry. Meanwhile, the Public Utilities Commission says it’s not turning a deaf ear to Idaho Power’s request for changes in the way it treats some of its growing energy conservation programs. And the PUC has also received the every-other-year energy resource plan from Rocky Mountain Power, and will soon set a comment period so the public can weigh in. For more information on these developments and coming events, read on.

Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
 
Ken
 
In a move that’s leaving Idaho energy-watchers scratching their heads, Idaho Power has pulled out the stops with a pricey ad campaign to try to further slow down wind energy development in Idaho. The ads paint the utility as one of the nation’s greenest – a claim quickly refuted in another ad by the region’s independent power producers. In other Idaho Power news, long-time regulatory affairs chief and more recently the company’s sustainability czar Ric Gale announced his retirement from the company. And in nuke news, the Pueblo County Commission in Colorado has denied a request for a reactor project – one that once involved the company that has been shopping reactors around Idaho for the past four years. And THAT company, Eagle-based AEHI, has a June 6 date before the Payette County Commission for its project, as well as an October 2012 date in U.S. District Court to answer to federal securities fraud charges. For more information on these developments, read on.

Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
 
Ken
 
The Idaho Legislature finally completed its unusually acrimonious 2011 session Thursday, but not before the Senate’s final vote – to pull the plug on Idaho’s incentive for investments in renewable energy. Despite easy passage in the House and amid the end-of-session chaos, the Senate came one vote shy of extending the sales tax rebate for renewable energy developments, an incentive viewed as critical for many renewable projects to move forward. Meanwhile, Seattle City Light has signed an agreement to buy the renewable energy credits from a wind farm under construction near Mountain Home. The PUC surprised many in rejecting a settlement agreement reached between Idaho Power and other parties on how the utility funds its energy conservation programs. And peripatetic Payette power plant proponent Alternate Energy Holdings filed its late financial report to the SEC – and the outlook for its would-be nuclear reactor is not a pretty picture.

For more information on these developments, along with our final legislative update, read on. Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
 
Ken
 
Idaho’s Wind Wars continued to rage this week, with a House committee killing a bill that would have slapped a two-year moratorium on new wind farms and another House panel struggling with whether to extend the state’s renewable energy development sales tax rebate, which expires this year. Meanwhile, Office of Energy Resources Administrator Paul Kjellander had his Senate confirmation hearing and is bound back for another stint at the Public Utilities Commission; and the PUC will hold oral arguments in a case that could change the way Idaho Power funds its energy conservation programs. For more information on these developments, along with your legislative update, read on.

Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
Ken
 
Idaho’s gathering storm over utility wind projects burst open this week as rival bills were introduced in the Legislature first to extend the lifeblood renewable energy sales tax rebates beyond their expiration this summer, and then to ban new wind farms altogether pending a legislative study of how wind power works in Idaho. And in something of a surprise, Gov Otter moved former Idaho PUC Commissioner Paul Kjellander back to the PUC from the Office of Energy Resources, which Kjellander led for the past two years. And the Payette County Commission rejected appeals of a P&Z green light of a property rezone for a nuclear reactor, meaning the County Commission is now free to hold hearings of its own on the proposal that remains mired in a federal securities fraud suit. For more information on these developments, along with your legislative update, read on.

Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!

Ken
 
Idahoans have a chance to speak out on 17 different wind projects that are before the Public Utilities Commission – but that are also caught in the regulatory tangle created when Idaho’s big electric utilities sought PUC approval to clamp down on the renewable energy projects they must deal with. Meanwhile, legislation has been introduced to change Idaho’s eminent domain laws and place new requirements on private transmission developers hoping to string lines across big swaths in Idaho. Gov. Otter has a PUC opening to fill, and the Payette County Commission on Monday will once again take up the case of would-be nuclear developer Alternate Energy Holdings. For more information on these developments, along with your legislative update, read on.

Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!

Ken
 
Idaho wind developers received a boost last week in the form of a new study by consulting firm Idaho Economics that reports far greater than projected economic benefits from wind development in the state. The report comes at a critical time as Idaho lawmakers seemed poised to let a critical sales tax rebate for renewable energy developments lapse when it’s due to expire this July. On the efficiency front, the Idaho Office of Energy Resources reports it’s not too late to tap into the rebate program for new energy efficient appliance purchases. And the Payette County Commission is scheduled to hold hearings Tuesday on appeals of the county’s favorable review of a rezoning request by a would-be nuclear reactor developer who’s also in hot water with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Finally, the Idaho PUC has approved contracts between Idaho Power and four new wind farms, as well as a renewed agreement with a small hydropower developer near Jerome; and a bill has been introduced in the Senate to allow school districts to receive on-bill credit for excess energy they produce on their own.  It’ll get a hearing on Wednesday.For more on these and other developments, read on.

Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!

Ken
 
A federal judge on Thursday lifted a freeze on the assets of troubled would-be nuclear reactor developer AEHI, but the decision does little to ease the massive legal problems facing the company in the wake of securities fraud charges filed in December. Meanwhile, a network of 11 wind farms from Hagerman to Cassia County has been fired up and the 122 turbines are sending enough electricity to Idaho Power to power about 40,000 homes. And the Office of Energy Resources has just issued its “Idaho Energy Primer,” a look at assorted energy issues in the state. In the Idaho Legislature, the House is expected to approve a resolution re-authorizing the interim joint Energy, Environment and Technology Committee to study energy issues after this year’s session. The top priority will be a review of Idaho’s 2007 Energy Plan, which after five years is up for a “complete study” to see which portions should be revised and what should be added or deleted from the plan. 

For more on these and other developments, read on. Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!

Ken