The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is taking comments through June 4 on a request by PacifiCorp, which does business in eastern Idaho as Rocky Mountain Power, to increase a surcharge that funds energy conservation programs from 3.7 percent of customer bills to 5.8 percent.
If approved by the commission, an average residential bill for a customer who uses 827 kilowatt-hours per month would increase by $1.62 per month, the commission said in a release. The money collected from the surcharge cannot go to increase company earnings, but must be directed only to investment in energy conservation programs.
According to company documents, Rocky Mountain invests about $5.2 million in seven conservation programs, but the programs generated $17.1 million in customer benefits during 2009. Due in part to increased customer participation in the southeast Idaho utility’s conservation programs, Rocky Mountain seeks to increase its yearly investment in the programs to about $8.3 million.
Comments on the case, No. PAC-E-10-03, are accepted on the Comments and Questions section of the commission’s Web site, by mail at P.O. Box 83720, Boise, Idaho 83720-0074, or by fax at (208) 334-3762.
The commission said that to reduce the size of rate increases, many utilities invest in energy efficiency and demand-side management programs as alternatives to building new power plants or buying energy from more costly suppliers. Reducing demand on a utility’s generating system, particularly during times of peak-use, is less expensive per kilowatt-hour than building new power plants to meet demand, the commission said.
Rocky Mountain’s Home Energy Efficiency program includes financial incentives to customers to invest in energy-efficient washing machines; refrigerators; water heaters; dishwashers; lighting; cooling equipment and services; ceiling, wall and attic insulation; and windows. The commission said the lighting savings program resulted in a four-fold increase in lighting savings from 2008 to 2009.
A low-income weatherization program and a refrigerator recycling program during 2009 resulted in 725 units recycled, the commission’s release said. Participation increased by 40 percent for the same time period in the company’s Energy FinAnswer and FinAnswer Express programs, which provide services and incentives for energy efficiency projects in business and commercial buildings.
Demand-side management programs coordinate when electricity is used, shifting use to those time periods when demand on a utility’s generating plants is lower and, thus, less costly. Rocky Mountain Power’s largest demand-side management effort is an irrigation load control program that increased by about 20 percent from 2008 to 2009, providing the company with 285 megawatts of generation. One megawatt is one million watts, enough electricity to power about 650 average homes.
The programs can help customers reduce consumption and save money on their electricity bills, and can help the utility save electricity system-wide. The commission said customers who don’t directly participate also benefit because the cost of the electricity saved system-wide through these programs is about half the cost of electricity generated by a new power plant.