Power Buy-Back Offer Confusing

Published online: Feb 21, 2001
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Over 150 growers heard Idaho Power Company's offer to buy back power-normally used for pump/irrigation-and left confused following a meeting today in Blackfoot, ID.

Dennis Elison, agriculture representative for Idaho Power's Energy Services Delivery, explained the formula and details. He said even though growers make bids, there is no guarantee they will be accepted into the conservation program.

Elison said Idaho Power wants the electricity in blocks of 100,000 kWh, but will allow a 5 percent tolerance for going under and over that amount. He also explained the Idaho legislature and the Idaho Public Utilities Commission are over seeing the entire program.

It was explained that large corporate potato processors and others have already generated strong resistance to the program and keeping the growers' production at status quo.

The one-year program will offer growers a chance to leave their land idle, or in an alternate dryland crop like grain, save the $2,000 it costs to grow an acre of potatoes, and reel in monthly checks.

However, the program has severe penalties for noncompliance after a bid has been accepted. In addition, Elison says irrigators who are not accepted for the program will probably be facing power rate hikes of up to 30 percent this summer.

There is great urgency for the sign-ups to be completed by Feb. 28. The IPUC is expected to approve the program by March 9. Growers will be notified of acceptance/rejection by March 10-11.

Idaho Power is looking at a projected shortfall of 400 megawatts. This will have to be purchased on the open market at higher rates. Other options-if not enough sign up-include cutting large industrial customers and generating with diesel-engine generators.

Elison said bids of 12 cents per kWh probably wouldn't be accepted.The recommended bid is eight cents. In addition, Idaho Power will apply for a three-tier power rate structure, basing rates on use during one of three periods during the day, with the 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. period considered off-peak time. If approved, growers could also apply for this program.

An example of a bid would be a 150-hp pump lifting from a deep well for one 135-acre pivot. Use of 120 kw over 1,500 hours would result in savings of 180,000 kWh. At an eight-cent bid, the grower would receive $14,400 for the season, or $106.66 an acre.