Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Preliminary draft could be ready by fall


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Although Idahoans will continue to get much of their energy from out-of-state coal-fired power plants, the state's next energy plan will not include that traditional method of generation on its list of home-grown sources.

Gov. Jim Risch instructed the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to write rules leaving Idaho out of a nationwide program that seeks to control mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Opting out means that coal-fired power plants will not be able to operate in Idaho because the state will keep its zero emissions cap on mercury pollution.

Meanwhile, state legislators are working to formulate a draft energy plan.

The Energy, Environment and Technology Interim Committee, which is meeting monthly over the summer and fall, plans to have a draft energy plan ready for public comment by late October or early November.

Subcommittees, comprising both lawmakers and citizens, are working on aspects of the plan, including generation involving renewable and conventional energy sources, conservation and demand management, siting and transmission, and transportation fuels and natural gas.

"I'm encouraged," said Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, who sits on two of the subcommittees. "I think the information is being presented fairly. Most people are impressed with the process.

"We'll (soon) begin to write our action plan to send to the full committee for their review."

The draft will then be unveiled at public meetings around the state before being introduced at next year's Legislature.

The statewide energy plan should focus on reliability, stability, affordability, conservation, job creation and flexibility, according to a study presented this month by Energy & Environmental Economics Inc. to the subcommittee on generation resources.

A separate study by E3 also noted that most of the energy Idahoans use is from out-of-state providers, meaning prices are driven by outside events and energy use doesn't benefit the local economy.

The study said Idaho has no oil, gas or coal resources, and hydropower resources have all been developed. There remains underdeveloped power from wind and geothermal sources.

Just how much energy should come from what source, however, remains to be worked out.

Lawmakers last spring voted to establish a two-year moratorium on coal-fired power plants to give the state time to formulate an energy plan.

Coal gasification power plants, which convert coal into electricity by breaking it down rather than burning it up, are not covered under the moratorium. Proponents of the technology say it produces far less mercury, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants than coal-fired plants.

The last statewide energy plan, compiled in 1982, provided an outlook but little means for implementation.

"There's a very strong feeling that (the new plan) should be used and reviewed and not just sit on the shelf like the one we did (before)," Jaquet said.

For more information on the interim energy committee's research, go to www.legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2006/Interim/interimcommittees.htm#energy.




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