The Idaho Public Utilities Commission granted Idaho Power Co. a 6.8 percent rate increase to pay for its new Langley Gulch natural gas generating plant near New Plymouth.
The commission rejected critics' arguments that the plant was ill-timed because of a drop in power demand of at least 1.5 percent. But it had little choice but to approve the nearly $400 million capital expenditure after it granted Idaho Power a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity in 2009 under a streamlined approval process passed several years earlier by the Idaho Legislature.
The plant was scheduled to go online July 1, increasing the investor-owned utility’s revenues by $58 million.
“The plant was substantially complete and became commercially available Friday afternoon,” said Stephanie McCurdy, an Idaho Power spokeswoman.
Without it, the company said its peak-hour loads estimates showed it would still be short of its generating capacity by 28 megawatts this month, 169 MW in July 2013 and 224 MW in July 2014. The company’s last record peak was hit in 2009.
An Idaho Power customer, who uses 1,020 kilowatt-hours per month, will see their average monthly bill increase by $5.63, from $82.72 per month to $88.35.
Ken Miller, an energy analyst for the Snake River Alliance, which advocates energy efficiency and alternative energy, said he did not want to reopen the 2009 decision. But he still believes Idaho Power didn’t need to build the new plant now, especially because the Hoku polysilicon plant in Pocatello and the Micron-Transform Solar project in Nampa, which are larger power users, are closed.
He argues that Idaho Power could meet its peak demand for less cost by expanding programs to manage irrigation pumps, air conditioners and other larger power users so they use less power during peak hours.
“I think when people see it show up on their bill they're going to realize how big of an increase it is,” Miller said.
Idaho Power had asked for a 7.1 percent increase but the commission adjusted down some of the costs approved.