Support for regional energy planning, support for demand-side management (conservation) as a significant source of additional energy, support for a least-cost plan for acquisition of additional generation and transmission resources.
The League of Women Voters of Idaho has been and continues to be involved in programs and policies mandated by the 1978 National Energy Act. Among these are energy conservation measures in commercial and residential buildings, redesigning utility rate structures and public education that provides a basic understanding of what energy is and the costs and benefits of its production and use. It 1981, the League joined the Northwest Conservation Act Coalition, now known as the Northwest Energy Coalition, a joint effort of agricultural, low-income, ratepayer, environmental, labor, solar and other citizen groups throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Coalition works to ensure the implementation of the Northwest Power Act. The League will continue to work on the implementation of this plan.
The League adopted this position in May of 2002.
The Leauge of Women Voters of Idaho supports the efforts of the Northwest Power Planning Council (NWPPC ) which represents the states in the Northwest, to develop and maintain a regional energy plan, integrating electric power demand and supply strategies.
The electric utility industry has changed since the original position was adopted. Although the deregulation of Idaho's electric utilities has not occurred, there have been many changes affecting the Northwestern states due to deregulation in other states and in portions of the industry. The federal role, largely through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has forced some changes on the region that the NWPPC does not oversee. A major example is the order that transmission lines be opened to all electricity generators. This is part of the reason there are "merchant" plants (electricity generated for sale on the open market) being proposed across the region including Idaho. Many merchant plants are not proposed by traditional utilities providing electricity to a service area. The plants are speculative, moneymaking ventures. The NWPPC has no regulatory influence over the merchant plants, and neither does Idaho's Public Utilities Commission. Regional planning is more difficult in the current utility environment.
The League believes that a comprehensive effort to achieve cost-effective region-wide conservation will have great long-term benefits for all the people of the Northwest. Conservation is a significant source of additional energy in the region, and conservation strategies should be included in utilities' resource planning. The cost-effectiveness of conservation investments should include environmental, social and health costs of generating and distributing electricity from new sources. When the need for additional power is determined, emphasis should be given to the development of decentralized facilities, which rely on renewable resources.
The need for conservation and renewable resources continues to be an issue in Idaho and the Northwest. The NWPPC reports that "during the last few years of the 1990s, utilities have developed conservation at half the rate the Council had determined to be cost effective in the 1998 power plan. Had cost-effective conservation been fully developed, it would have displaced approximately 180 megawatts of power, enough for about 100,00 average northwest homes. Because cost-effective conservation was not developed, the region's utilities had to purchase additional power, often at extraordinarily high prices."
In 2001, the NWPPC released an analysis that shows the Northwest could acquire an amount of energy conservation equal to the output of a large gas-fired power plant during the next three years (about 300 megawatts) at a lower cost than building such a plant. The Northwest Energy Coalition contends the region could conserve many times that in cost-effective methods. Further, growing a regional renewable energy industry would help the region's economy.
Most of the power plants being built or planned are not being built by the regulated utilities. Sitting is an issue because there are few state regulations other than air quality permits and possible water rights transfers or groundwater permits required. There are no state land-use regulations for sitting power plants. Decisions are made at the county level. The LWVID should consider whether it should advocate for a state sitting process.
The NWPPC has no authority over determining additional power needs. Many of the plants being built or planned are merchant plants and all or most of the power would be sold out of the region. These plants do not go through a needs analysis by the NWPCC or the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. But some of the expensive power form merchant plants may be purchased by local utilities when power is needed. This is a disincentive for regulated utilities to build their own power plants. The volatility of energy prices has regulated planning and acquisition of resources to a different realm than when the original position was taken.