Federal ruling is a win for wind, and Idaho consumers

Here's a draft of our Wednesday editorial:

The wind power industry scored a key victory last week — and this could be a long-term win for consumers as well.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered Idaho Power to abide by the terms of its 20-year agreement to purchase electricity from Idaho wind farms.

For Idaho’s young and growing wind industry, the implications are clear. Wind producers need a dependable, stable market for their power — and need to know that they can sell their product. Without a set market and a predictable rate of return, investments in renewable power development could all but vanish.

The renewable sector has the federal law on its side: The Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act is supposed to ensure access to the consumer power market. But Idaho Power asked the feds for a rollback, arguing that it should not be required to buy wind power when demand for electricity is lower.

The utility’s talking point — the centerpiece of its public battle with wind producers — goes back to consumer cost. Idaho Power says the PURPA contracts force the utility to purchase expensive wind power, with the costs passed along to nearly 500,000 customers. When Idaho Power is forced to buy off-peak power from wind farms, the utility is forced to scale back production at its coal-powered plants — a yo-yo effect that also drives up consumer costs.

But let’s remember that these are 20-year purchase agreements, not one-shot deals. The same timeframe that provides a stable market for the seller provides the buyer with the cushion to ride out short-term cost fluctuations.

For Idaho Power to present coal power as a low-cost option seems, at best, short-sighted. Idaho Power isn’t going to phase out coal, which meets a little over 40 percent of its typical power demands in a normal water year. But the region and its ratepayers are best served by an all-of-the-above power portfolio. That includes the traditional sources — but also natural gas, now a low-cost commodity, and renewables such as solar and wind.

Developing Idaho’s abundant wind into a piece of the power puzzle presents an opportunity — one the state cannot afford to pass up.

But that opportunity will never be realized unless the wind producers and Idaho Power can craft a long-term working relationship that works for both sides. And this may be the FERC decision’s lasting, unintended benefit. Because the ruling keeps wind power in the game, Idaho Power has added incentive to work with this industry — not against it.

"For Idaho’s young and

"For Idaho’s young and growing wind industry, the implications are clear. Wind producers need a dependable, stable market for their power"

Oh the irony. Wind producers talking about stable and dependable. The sporadic and unpredictable nature of wind power can be monitored in almost real time here: http://www.idahopower.com/AboutUs/EnergySources/Wind/windsystemload.cfm

The net effect of this ruling is higher consumer prices subsidizing the heavily subsidized and unlimited profit industry of wind power.

You might be surprised at

You might be surprised at what all is subsidized in this country.

KR, what color is the sky in your world?

How are higher utility rates, directly attributable to wind energy that Idaho Power is FORCED to purchase, a win for consumers? Utility ratepayers are digging deeper in their pockets to pay out-of-state wind energy developers. To me, this sounds like a net economic loss to the state of Idaho. Wind energy developers are not interested in working together with Idaho Power; they didn't even wait for the IPUC to render a decision on IP's recent appeal to the commissioners. Developers bypassed the process and appealed directly to the FERC, where they are guaranteed a favorable ruling from Obama's appointees.

KR, when are you going to write a comprehensive piece on wind energy that discloses the true cost of wind power? When are you going to share with your readers that taxpayers pay for more than a third of the cost of Idaho's wind farms?

Good ruling

As our state is burning down and our ski industry is dying due to global warming, it's time we realized that Idaho (and all of America) needs cleaner energy.

Wind energy isn't clean

Because of the unreliability of wind power, it must be backed up by another power source, which in the northwest generally means coal or natural gas. The more wind turbines erected means more carbon-producing energy to back it up.

So, if we have 50% wind, and 50% carbon producing

that creates more carbon than 100% carbon producing plants?

I think there's a flaw in your logic there son.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart

Quit being a poet and do your research

First of all, if this country has 50 percent of its power derived from wind, we'll all be broke. Second, because of the unreliability of wind, coal-fired plants and natural-gas generators have to be cycled up and down, which actually generates higher CO2 emissions than running constantly.

"For Idaho's young and growing wind industry......"

I've read this paragraph several times trying to find the "tongue in cheek", the punchline to the joke, the sarcasm....there's no such thing. KR is dead serious! If I had all these guarantees, my business of selling ice to Eskimos would have flourished. This paragraph just shot to the top of my list of all time greatest Richert Hits. Amazing.

Change of Game

Instead of whining about changes in market conditions, while relying on power generated out of state by outdated coal power plants, Idaho Power can get back in the game by generating solar power in state for sale to other states. The solar capacity in Idaho's southwest could make the state an exporter of power instead of an importer. Idaho Power's shareholders need to take a close look at the backward thinking entrenched in the corporate offices of their utility.

No Win for Customers

Hello, this is Bill Shawver, corporate communications director for Idaho Power. I’d like to respond to some of the points raised in this editorial. We’re puzzled by the premise that last week’s ruling is a win for customers. Purchasing unlimited amounts of expensive wind energy during light-load periods means higher costs when coal resources are ramped up after the wind dies down. This raises rates and is not a win for customers.

The statement “Idaho Power isn’t going to phase out coal” ignores the fact that the Boardman, Oregon, plant is already slated for shutdown in 2020. More importantly, our large hydroelectric base gives us some of the lowest carbon emissions of any electric utility in the country. We also have the highest percentage of wind generation capacity of any utility in the Northwest.

While PURPA’s intent is ensure access to the market, it also requires customers be held neutral in terms of price. FERC’s order ignores this requirement. Idaho Power is focused on keeping rates low, while the editorial speculates about future generation costs without any factual support. FERC’s order is contrary to the interests of Idaho citizens and harms our customers. The order addresses issues before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission for determination. We are preparing to challenge the order as part of our commitment to provide safe, reliable, fair-priced electricity to our customers.

We've all heard the phrase "too big to fail".....

this editorial gives birth to a new phrase: "too little to fail".