Library from Idaho
Paying too much for renewables was the Idaho Power's primary argument for curtailment, saying that the non-negotiated rates it is required to employ are as much as $65 per MWh, compared to $5 per MWh for hydroelectric. "One of our problems [with renewable energy] in Idaho is low [energy] prices and lack of need.
Idaho's wind industry has won a major victory over Idaho Power in a ruling from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Associated Press reports. FERC ruled that federal law doesn't allow a utility company to unilaterally curtail electricity purchases during times of light load when it has long-term power purchase agreements in place, like those Idaho Power has with wind-energy producers.
The signs suggest Exergy pushed too hard, spent too much and extended itself too far. Unfortunately, and perhaps unfairly, this one company's problems can reflect poorly on an emerging wind sector. Exergy's implosion is particularly ill-timed because, while the PUC deliberates, the wind industry also is locked in a public relations showdown.
Idaho Power, the state's largest utility, wants Idaho regulators' permission to limit electricity output from wind farms like Terna's at times of low demand, arguing it will protect customers from higher costs. With the matter unresolved, lenders are wary their money is at risk.
Exergy Development Group LLC of Boise failed to pay up to $37.9 million for 32 turbines that were to be transported to Idaho from Pennsylvania, according to the lawsuit filed by a unit of AES Corp. in U.S. District Court in Idaho. Arlington, VA.-based AES said Exergy signed the contract on May 25 and made an initial, non-refundable deposit of $1.7 million.
“The end consequence, that of increased power rates, is detrimental to Idahoans as a people and our whole economy,” says Christensen. “Our state legislators have only been hearing from one side, those with their hand in the money pot. It’s time for Idaho to look at our own facts and not rely on what is being fed to them by those standing to profit.”
A prominent Idaho wind energy developer has asked to pull out of contracts for projects in Twin Falls and Lincoln counties. The circumstances of the move by Boise-based Exergy Development Group highlight the ongoing debate over wind and other renewable energy sources in Idaho, and how state regulators should treat them.
Carkulis said he decided to halt the projects after it became clear Exergy would not get them done by the end of the year, which the company had to do to obtain an up-front payment of a federal investment-tax credit that is due to expire Dec. 31.
Idaho Power Attorney Donovan Walker called on the PUC to be "courageous" and restructure Idaho's entire system for carrying out PURPA. The utility also wants the commission to shorten the length of PURPA contracts, from 20 years to five.
Idaho Power is asking the commission to approve a policy for managing power from wind projects beyond emergencies. It says it's necessary to manage its system in periods of light demand. The
Public Utilities Commission members Tuesday had to referee an exchange where the developers' attorney, Peter Richardson, blasted Rocky Mountain Power for suggesting that alternative projects were committing fraud.
Given the fact that, in 2012, Idahoans are on the hook to pay $65 per megawatt-hour for wind power under those non-negotiated rates, when they could be paying $24 for power on the open market, that's a logical conclusion. We live in a region with reliable, relatively clean, inexpensive hydro power that last year accounted for 63 percent of Idaho Power's output.
The ads are part of a coordinated campaign by the investor-owned utility to persuade state regulators, political leaders and the public to stop or dramatically reduce the amount of wind and other renewable power it has to buy. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will hold hearings next month on the terms of contracts between renewable energy developers and utilities.
When wind power hits 1,000 megawatts and above, the cost of integrating that power explodes, and the utility isn't certain it can operate its system without forcing some wind plants to shut down. Incorporating more wind power would dramatically increase Idaho Power's costs because it would limit the company's ability to use its low-cost hydropower.
A Nevada utility company's recent decision to pull out of a major wind project along the Idaho and Nevada border has local officials worried about the project's future. "This might be the nail in the coffin for this project," said Twin Falls County Commissioner Leon Mills.
Simpson says the wind energy issue demands a full explanation. "I really think it's important that we have the discussion with the public, be it the taxpayers, the ratepayers and the land owners. And certainly we have to involve the investor-owned utilities, which are choking on expensive, unreliable wind energy due to a federal statute."
Andrus also believes the main problem is the control of the market. “I think the solution is to do away with the incentives and let the free market take care of itself. We’ve encouraged these people to come to Idaho offering these incentives. Getting rid of the incentives is the answer,” he said.
The Bureau of Land Management will defer for two years a final decision on a huge wind farm on the Nevada border while it considers how to keep sage grouse from listing under the Endangered Species Act. BLM suspended its environmental study of the proposed China Mountain Wind Energy project.
Christensen's criticism of Idaho wind energy farms doesn't stop with billboards. Her group is also throwing its support behind a bill that would place a moratorium on all future Idaho wind projects for the next two years.