Idaho Power began its Integrated Resource Planning process Thursday without the Snake River Alliance on its advisory council.
The Alliance, was told last month that it has been kicked off the Council, which helps Idaho Power write the two year plan that guides how the investor-owned utility will meet its customer’s future power demand. The decision came after the environmental group organized a demonstration at the utility’s May stockholders meeting aimed at getting the company to reduce its reliance on coal.
But even though the Alliance was not on the council, it has many members and its executive director Liz Woodruff and its clean energy director Ken Miller sitting in the audience. Several of the new member of the council did not show up.
Mark Stokes, Idaho Power’s planning manager said the meeting was being recorded on camera “because of things that happened.”
And he said he would be handing out a proposed list of ground rules for members of the council so they know what the utility expects of them.
“Everybody has to realize everybody has different viewpoints,” Stokes said. “Everybody has to be respectful of the process.”
The day-long meeting will look at what generation plants the company used for its peak operation day, a critical point of the discussions. It also will look at proposed transmission projects from Oregon to Idaho and across Idaho to Wyoming.
What it won’t be talking about yet are the coal plants the company uses to generate 50 percent of its electricity. That’s because it currently is doing an economic analysis of those plants.
“Until we get that study done there’s not a whole lot we can say about that,” Stokes said.
The Snake River Alliance held a press conference before the meeting to hand out its “Lose The Coal” report. But it held the conference in front of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission building, not Idaho Power's headquarters.
The report says that Idaho Power’s customers are vulnerable to increases in power rates when federal or state authorities place a price on carbon as a way to force the transition away from fossil fuels. The Snake River Alliance argues Idaho Power could replace its aging coal plants with energy efficiency.
Idaho Power owns a part of coal plants that generate about 1,500 megawatts of power, 700 megawatts of which can be replaced easily by energy efficiency. It wants the rest to come from renewable energy like solar, biofuels, wind and geothermal.
But Miller acknowledged that natural gas, which has about half of the carbon dioxide emissions as coal, also would work. Specifically it wants the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to require utilities to get a “certificate of need” for environmental upgrades and other new additions to its coal plants.
Wyoming has set up a similar process there, where Idaho Power has several of its plants. It also went through the process when it built the Langley Gulch gas plant.
“We are not talking about shutting down coal plants now but 20 years from now,” Miller said.
Stokes said he had not finished the alliance’s coal report this morning but it said it did not appear to address reliability issues that are critical to the discussion.
But for the near term that discussion will go on at the planning meetings with only limited input from the alliance and only after Idaho Power finishes its coal report.