Idaho commission says it needs to see more DSM from PacifiCorp

PacifiCorp d/b/a Rocky Mountain Power needs to add more demand-side management (DSM) to its future plans, said the Idaho Public Utilities Commission in its Sept. 11 approval of the utility’s latest integrated resource plan (IRP).

The commission said it accepts Rocky Mountain’s 2013 IRP filing. “In so doing, the Commission reiterates that a standard IRP is merely a plan, not a blueprint,” the commission noted. “An IRP is a utility planning document that incorporates many assumptions and projections at a specific point in time. It is the ongoing planning process that we acknowledge, not the conclusions or results. The Commission offers no opinion or ruling regarding the prudency ofthe Company’s election of its preferred resource portfolio.”

The commission acknowledged the comments and criticisms of the intervenors and other interested parties, including but not limited to Monsanto Co. and the Idaho Conservation League (ICL).

The commission also acknowledged that recent history has demonstrated that attempts by energy analysts to predict carbon pricing is fraught with failure and uncertainty. “However, it seems more likely than not that the EPA will move forward and enact additional regulations of fossil fuels under the federal Clean Air Act,” the commission added. “In light of this contingency, it appears to be in the best interest of the Company and its customers to continue to evaluate and devote more focus on the development of alternative energy resources.”

The Sept. 11 decision added: “The Commission directs the Company to increase its efforts toward achieving higher levels of cost-effective DSM. Instituting cost-effective energy efficiency measures that reduce customer demand benefits everyone. Such measures can obviate the need for new generation resources and thereby decrease the constant upward pressure on energy pricing. Cost-effective reductions in customer demand, particularly in peak hours and months, are almost always preferable to the construction of a new natural gas plant or purchases on the wholesale power market. Therefore, the Commission will be attentive to Rocky Mountain’s efforts toward DSM programs. In future IRP and DSM filings, the Commissions directs the Company to present clear and quantifiable metrics governing its actions regarding decisions to implement or decline to implement energy efficiency programs.”

On April 30, Rocky Mountain filed this IRP with the Idaho commission, while filing a similar document at around the same time with commissions in several other states that it serves. The 2013 IRP focuses on a 10-year period, 2013-2022.

The load forecast fell sharply in this year’s version of the IRP

The company said in this IRP that its projected load forecast is down in relation to projected loads used in the 2011 IRP and 2011 IRP Update. The company cites industrial self-generation and load cancellation requests in Utah and Wyoming as significant drivers of this decreased load estimate. The reduced load forecast has greatly mitigated but not eliminated the company’s need for new resources.

Rocky Mountain also noted that base case wholesale power and natural gas prices are down significantly from the 2011 IRP and 2011 IRP Update. Rocky Mountain said the proliferation of shale gas exploration in North America has led to these favorable market conditions.

The company indicated a system capacity deficit of 824 MW starting in 2013 that increases to 2,308 MW in 2022. The company’s load obligation takes into account a 1.2% yearly system coincident-peak load growth rate. This average yearly load forecast is 11.3% lower than the load forecast used in the 2011 IRP. According to the company, the decreased load forecasts are driven in part by increased self-generation by industry taking advantage of low natural gas prices and by load cancellations.

Existing resource capacity has also been adjusted down by an annual average 113 MW between 2013 and 2076 and approximately 200 MW in years 2017 and beyond. When taking into account lower load growth rates and small reductions in existing capacity, the annual load and resource balance deficit has decreased dramatically ranging from 1,925 MW in year 2013 to 3,852 MW in year 2020 when compared to the 2011 IRP, thus eliminating the need for major resource acquisitions in the first ten years of the planning horizon.

From an energy perspective, PacifiCorp/Rocky Mountain does not experience any deficits throughout the first ten years of the planning horizon during off-peak hours. Minor deficits begin to occur during on-peak hours in 2018 and become increasingly frequent beyond the 2022 time frame.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.