- The Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved three new wind projects to be located in Wyoming, granting Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) the final approval it needed to move ahead with parts of its Energy Vision 2020 plan.
- Regulators approved the wind facilities, which have a total generating capacity of 1,150 MW, along with associated transmission facilities and a ratemaking treatment, capping costs at $2 billion.
- Large consumers oppose the project, saying the company is unnecessarily taking on risk because it could continue to make power purchases, referred to as uncommitted front office transactions (FOTs). The PUC determined, however, that building new generation would demonstrably lower customer costs.
Idaho's approval is the final general signoff needed for RMP to move forward with the new renewable generation — Wyoming approved the projects in April and Utah gave its OK in June. Oregon and Washington have also indicated support for the company's Energy Vision 2020 plan as part of parent company PacifiCorp's 2017 Integrated Resource Plan.
The investments will "significantly expand the company's Wyoming wind fleet and benefit both state and local economies," RMP CEO Cindy Crane said in a statement.
PacifiCorp estimates the Energy Vision 2020 projects will cost slightly more than $3 billion — down from an initial $3.5 billion cost estimate, when the projects were first announced in April 2017. According to the utility, the decrease comes from changes in project scope and use of a competitive procurement process. But the projects' economics hinge on being in service by 2020, RMP noted, to get full benefit of production tax credits and provide a net savings for customers over the life of the projects.
The tax credits are a point of contention for companies opposing the plan. Monsanto, a group known as Pacificorp's Idaho Industrial Customers, and the Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association point out that the projects' impetus is financial, rather than driven by a need to construct new generation to meet demand. FOTs have traditionally been the cheapest way to supply power, but PacifiCorp said the tax credit changed the dynamic and the commission agreed.
Regulators concluded displacing FOTs with the new wind generation "is fair, just and reasonable because the costs passed on to customers will likely be demonstrably less."
PacifiCorp still has a long way to go. After getting all necessary approvals, permits, rights-of-way and contracts, construction is expected to begin in 2019. The company is also repowering 900 MW of existing wind resources in Wyoming and Washington, the majority of which will be completed next year.