Wind power in Idaho: urged to reject moratorium on wind energy

The Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition (NIPPC) urged an Idaho House of Representatives’ committee today to reject a proposed "emergency" two-year moratorium on new wind farm development that it said would "cut the state’s wind power industry off at the knees."

"Labeling House Bill 561 an ’emergency measure’ might make sense if you are an Idaho Power shareholder," NIPPC’s attorney Peter Richardson told the House Local Government Committee. The state’s largest investor-owned utility supports the bill along with other proposals to scale back power projects developed by independent power producers.

Idaho Power’s real objection to wind farms and other power plants it doesn’t own, Richardson explained, is that its shareholders see zero profit from the privately-owned wind farms, dairy waste, geothermal, biomass, small hydro and solar generators. These power plants are only paid for the electricity they generate under long-term fixed price contracts.

Richardson pointed to Idaho Power’s nearly completed Langley Gulch Power Plant as an example of where shareholder interests take precedence over consumer needs. "When that new, gold-plated plant runs," Richardson told the committee, "you will see it generate considerably more electricity than all of Idaho’s wind turbines combined." And Richardson told the committee, "every dime of hundreds of millions of dollars that Idaho Power spends on the Langley Gulch Plant will appear on consumer bills, yielding a generous rate of return that the Idaho Public Utilities Commission has already approved."

In his testimony, Richardson said that NIPPC "regrets" that the bill before the committee would prohibit local governments from even considering wind farms under their own local land use ordinances. "The bill turns Idaho’s commitment to local governance on its head," Richardson argued, "by usurping local government’s role in making land use decisions."

Representatives speaking on behalf of companies that have collectively invested well over $1.2 billion in the state, creating hundreds of permanent and temporary jobs, joined NIPPC in opposition to HB 561.

"Idaho will be making a huge mistake if it turns its back on this type of private investment," said NIPPC Executive Director Robert Kahn. "Small, disbursed power plants generate electricity cost-effectively while helping sustain rural economies," adding, "if legislators shut down wind power, rest assured that other independent power plants will be targeted next."

The Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition works to ensure a competitive electric power supply marketplace in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.