Idaho Power Rate Hikes Likely This Summer

The average Idaho Power customer will pay at least $5.50 more a month starting this summer.   The state public utilities commission will likely go along with the company’s requests.    

Idaho Power has proposed eight rate adjustments so far this spring.  That will likely mean a higher electric bill for customers this summer.  Part of that increase comes from a power cost adjustment.  Greg Said, Idaho Power’s Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, says renewable energy contracts play a major role in pushing the adjustment up.  "We’ve seen a 25% increase in those costs in the last year."

Idaho Power faces about $123 million in costs this year because of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA.  But those renewable energy contracts aren’t the only reason for the proposed rate hikes.  Boise Attorney Peter Richardson works with renewable energy developers.  He says Langley Gulch, Idaho Power’s new natural gas plant, is really the reason why rates could go up.  "The PURPA rates are cheaper than Langley Gulch.  And the PURPA projects are allowing Idaho Power to back off other more expensive resources," according to Richardson.

But Idaho Power doesn’t see it that way.  Greg Said disagrees with Richardson’s calculations on renewable energy contracts and Langley Gulch.  "As he looks at data and as the company looks at data, we find we have a different point of view."

Idaho Power is allowed to increase customer rates to recover the costs of building the nearly $400 million plant in Payette County.  Langley Gulch is expected to go online in July.  That’s when Idaho Power wants to start charging customers more to begin paying off the plant. 

Meanwhile, the state public utilities commission can approve, reject, or modify the power company’s rate adjustments.  PUC spokesman Gene Fadness says the commission will likely okay those related to power costs.   "If their power purchases were prudent, we really don’t have a lot of wiggle room in changing substantially what their request is."  Fadness says the major decision to recover Langley Gulch costs was made years ago.  Now, the Commission will make sure expenses to build the plant were needed to serve Idaho Power customers. 

Idaho’s Public Utilities Commission will accept comments on Idaho Power’s application for a cost adjustment until May 15th.  Comments on Langley Gulch recovery rates are due at the end of the month.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio