Friday, March 30, 2007

Idaho Power diversifies energy sources

PUC approves power provider?s 20-year growth plan

Express Staff Writer

Idaho Power Co., which provides electricity across much of southern Idaho, is continuing to plan for growth and is continuing to diversify power sources.

State regulators have accepted a 20-year growth plan for Idaho Power that calls for 1,300 megawatts of added generation from wind, geothermal, coal and nuclear resources to meet the demands of its growing customer base.

The plan also calls for 187 megawatts of demand reduction through conservation and energy efficiency programs. Idaho Power also plans to gain access to an additional 285 megawatts as a result of transmission expansion and upgrades that will bring in more power from the Pacific Northwest.

Acceptance of the plan does not mean the Idaho Public Utilities Commission endorses all of its elements, nor does it constitute approval of any resource acquisition. The commission requires all regulated electric and gas utilities to file an Integrated Resource Plan every two years to describe the utilities' customer base, its current and potential supply-side resources and a risk analysis.

The commission said Idaho Power's 2006 integrated resource plan is an improvement from prior filings, particularly in its inclusion of transmission upgrades and expansion as a method to acquire new sources of energy supply.

"We are also pleased that the company is expanding its demand-side management programs and increasing the amount of renewable energy resources in its portfolio," the commission said in a March 27 news release.

The commission asked that Idaho Power and the two other major regulated utilities that serve the state—Avista and PacifiCorp—consider jointly filing their integrated resource plans in order to provide the commission with a more regional view for resource planning.

Idaho Power projects its customer base will increase from 455,000 to more than 680,000 over the next 20 years.

The company recently entered into an agreement with the developers of an eastern Oregon wind farm for 100 megawatts to add to its growing wind portfolio. The company has increased its wind portfolio from 2.61 megawatts in 2004 to nearly 400 megawatts scheduled to be online by the end of 2008.

The plan includes a 250-megawatt coal addition in 2013. Idaho Power does not know specifically where this addition will be located, but officials indicated one of the best near-term alternatives is an expansion at the Jim Bridger coal plant near Rock Springs, Wyo.

The plan also anticipates a possible 250 megawatts from a regional facility that would use an advanced clean-coal technology called integrated gasification combined cycle. Developers of this technology have expressed interest in Pocatello and Soda Springs as possible sites.

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