Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Resort seeks to buy Idaho Power facilities

Idaho PUC taking comments on Sun Valley Co. proposal


By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer

Idaho Power Co. is seeking regulatory approval to sell its power distribution facilities at Sun Valley Resort to Sinclair Oil Corp., which operates the resort through Sun Valley Co.

Under the proposal, Sun Valley Co. will pay Idaho Power $135,533 to take over all of the electrical distribution systems in the confines of the resort. The deal would not affect other Idaho Power customers in the city of Sun Valley.

Jim Bell, Idaho Power area manager, said the proposal—which was initiated by Sun Valley Co.—would essentially allow the resort to eliminate monthly payments to Idaho Power for maintaining the power infrastructure on the site. However, Sun Valley Co. would still pay Idaho Power for electricity sent into the resort through a primary meter.

Sun Valley Co. spokesman Jack Sibbach said the sale would allow the company to more efficiently operate and manage the facilities within the resort complex.

"It's much more cost effective for us to purchase everything," Sibbach said.

Indeed, Bell said eliminating the monthly infrastructure surcharge would likely save Sun Valley Co. considerable amounts of money over time. Taking control of the system could also benefit Sun Valley Co. as it starts implementing a long-term master development plan, he said, because the company would not have to pay Idaho Power to construct and maintain new facilities.

Sibbach confirmed that owning the system would give Sun Valley Co. "more flexibility" in implementing its ambitious master development plan, which includes new hotels, residences and various guest amenities.

If the sale is approved, Bell said, Sun Valley Co. would have to maintain its own facilities, or make special arrangements to have outside contractors do so.

"The downside is, when the power goes out, we stop right there at the property line," he said. "Our first responsibility is to our customers."

Through the deal, Sun Valley Co. could not buy power on the open market and sell it, Bell said, but would be able to charge for power provided to its tenants in Sun Valley Village.

According to the Idaho Public Utility Commission—which will approve or deny the sale—Sun Valley Co. has advised all of its affected tenants of the proposed transaction.

Idaho Power is also seeking a waiver of an Idaho Public Utility Commission rule that prohibits utilities from removing individual service meters in shopping centers where the tenants control their own electric space-heating or air-conditioning appliances. Sun Valley Co. asserts that within 60 days of the transfer, it will retrofit the individual thermostats for each of its tenants so that each thermostat will be centrally controlled by Sun Valley Co., the PUC said.

Bell said Idaho Power is allowing Sun Valley Co. to pursue the deal because it is allowed under established regulations.

"They're not breaking new ground here."

The PUC is taking comments on the proposal through Aug. 23. Comments can be sent via e-mail from the commission's Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on "Comments and Questions," fill in the case number and enter your comments. Comments can also be mailed to Idaho Public Utilities Commission, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID, 83720, or faxed to (208) 334-3762.




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