Oregon wants workshop on Idaho Power smart grid benefits

In a Feb. 4 order, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) adopted PUC staff recommendations on the 2015 smart grid report of Idaho Power, which has a service territory that stretches into eastern Oregon.

The PUC staff recommendations included more effort by Idaho Power to quantify the benefits expected from smart grid programs, improved visibility on phasor measurement units (PMUs) being installed on the transmission system and enhancing the time of day (TOD) pricing options available to customers.

In its annual smart grid report filed with the PUC on Oct. 1, 2015, Idaho Power listed four broad smart grid goals and noted that benefits were either current benefits or future benefits, but it did not quantify the benefits as it was directed to do in a previous order, the PUC said. In its recommendations, PUC staff expressed its belief that certain projects, such as advanced meters, have quantifiable benefits that can be explained in the form of dollars or some other value.

The PUC noted that Idaho Power is not alone, as other utilities in the state have struggled with reporting quantifiable benefits data in their respective smart grid reports.

The order adopted staff’s recommendation that Idaho Power should work with staff and stakeholders to hold a workshop prior to the annual submission of the utility’s smart grid report where staff and stakeholders can review and offer suggestions to any quantifiable benefits Idaho Power plans to provide. The order also directed Idaho Power to determine possible cost-saving metrics associated with its advanced metering infrastructure.

To improve situational awareness on its power grid, Idaho Power plans to install PMUs on all transmission lines of 230 kV and higher and all power plants with a capacity of 20 MW or more, the PUC noted. Six PMUs are to be installed by May 2017, five of which are for various generation stations and one of which is for a transmission situational awareness oscillation monitoring pilot, the order pointed out.

The PUC said Idaho Power should provide updates on the PMU efforts, including real-time voltage stability monitoring in future smart grid reports.

On TOD pricing, Idaho Power sought to use seasonal pricing as a prerequisite to prepare customers for the more complicated aspects of TOD pricing, asserting that the differences in costs between peak and off-peak time periods were smaller than the TOD pricing pilot in Idaho. Idaho Power also noted that its demand response programs included behavioral components that enable customers to adjust their usage, but it did not plan to offer a behavioral demand response program in addition to its current demand response programs.

PUC staff disagreed that seasonal pricing is a prerequisite to TOD pricing. The utility’s hesitation in offering TOD pricing options in Oregon is depriving customers of benefits that are available from advanced meters that customers have paid for, staff said.

The order said that Idaho Power should work with PUC staff to investigate, design and implement a TOD pilot that may include behavioral components that can be offered to residential customers if it is determined to be feasible.

Idaho Power is a subsidiary of IDACORP (NYSE:IDA).