Idaho's Public Utilities Commission, which oversees all things energy, is deliberating whether the Gem State’s largest energy provider, Idaho Power, is exercising what it calls "prudent spending" in energy conservation programs. The PUC is allowing room for the public to weigh in on whether the 20 incentive programs are a worthy return on Idaho Power's investment, but the window for input is set to close Sunday, June 10.
“Typically, we don’t get a lot of comments. It’s a yearly review just to make sure that the programs are energy efficient,” Gene Fadness, PUC spokesman told Citydesk, but quickly added. “However, this time we are.”
The Idaho Conservation League is actively attempting to gin up public participation on the issue.
“The [PUC] can rule whether spending in any of the suite of programs was prudent. If they decide any were not, then Idaho Power would have to return the money to ratepayers," said Ben Otto, ICL energy associate. "This would put a chilling effect on future energy efficiency spending.”
ICL, in a June 1 message to 3,500 of its supporters, the non-profit warned that if citizens didn't speak up, "the PUC could put [the programs] on the chopping block."
“It doesn't take many public comments to be effective," said Otto. "Typically, the PUC receives less than 10. ICL hopes that at least 20 people submit supportive comments.”
But Fadness said he didn't see how the ICL's outcry was substantiated.
“The ICL sent out a mailing that said programs are on the chopping block, which they are not. This is routine testing," said Fadness. "Mostly invested rebates for customers are being tested. If there are changes, the changes are tweaking the programs, not removing any or ‘putting them on the chopping block.’”
Fadness said each of Idaho Power’s 20 conservation programs will undergo several tests that establish whether the program saves customers more money than it costs to run the program.
“The goal,” said Fadness, “is to score a 1.0 or above, which translates basically that for one dollar invested, $1.69 is saved.”
In 2011, enough power was saved by the programs to service more than 12,900 average homes a year, according to PUC. But the savings came with higher upfront costs. A 4 percent Energy Efficient Rider accompanies enrolled customer’s bills.
“The problem is really one of perception," wrote Otto. "With energy efficiency, customers pay up front for benefits over the long term. ICL is asking for public support to eliminate wasteful spending and wasteful power consumption.”