Friday, March 31, 2006

State energy strategy seen as next goal


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

The debate surrounding the pros and cons of a coal-fired power plant proposed for Jerome County could bring to the forefront a broader dialectic: What are the best sources from which the state should get its energy?

Although energy giant Sempra Generation announced this week it would no longer pursue a $1.4 billion, 600-megawatt power plant in Jerome County, the development rights are up for sale and another company could take up where Sempra left off.

That leaves many Idahoans wondering what, if any, part coal should play in the state's energy picture.

The state Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution, labeled House Concurrent Resolution 62, which calls for an interim energy committee to formulate an energy plan.

Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, whose district includes Blaine County, will be a part of that summer committee.

"We know so much more than we did a year ago," he said Wednesday. "Sempra's done us a favor. They helped us focus our energies (into) developing a comprehensive energy plan. People have spoken up on what they don't want. Now it's up to us to figure out what we do want."

Idaho last compiled an energy plan in 1982.

"The availability of long-term energy supplies at reasonable costs is critical to the well-being of our state," says a public letter from then-Gov. John Evans regarding the 1982 plan. "We must plan realistically, conserve our available resources and develop new energy sources to assure orderly and reasonable economic growth for Idaho."

According to the report, issued by the governor's Energy Resource Policy Board, the 1970s marked a point for Idaho when the state could no longer count on hydropower to meet the demands of a growing population.

The board concluded that energy should be pursued from a variety of sources, including coal and nuclear options.

Idaho Power, the state's primary power provider, also takes a multi-pronged approach.

In its 2004 Integrated Resource Plan, a needs assessment document, the company stated a need for an additional 500 megawatts of power from coal-fired generation, as well as power from renewable and other sources.

"The hydro system is finite," Dennis Lopez, corporate communications specialist for Idaho Power, previously said. "Besides a small expansion of Shoshone Falls plant, beyond that ... no one will build new dams. That component is fixed, so we have to look at other resources."

Stennett said wind could play a more prominent role in energy production than it previously has.

With a reshaping of hydropower's use, the two sources combined could power the whole state "if we change our way of thinking to wind," he said.




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