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Spokane Journal of Business
September 27, 2012

Avista, Inland Power clear initial clean energy hurdles

Electric companies lauded by NW Energy Coalition for efficiencies achieved

Regional electricity providers Avista Utilities and Inland Power & Light Co., both of Spokane, have recorded impressive accomplishments during the first reporting period for Washington's clean energy law, Initiative 937, says a primary sponsor of the law voters passed in 2006.

That sponsor, NW Energy Coalition, says Avista had strong efficiency numbers and demonstrated hydropower's continuing role in the state's clean energy future by planning to meet 84 percent of its new renewable energy requirement for 2012 with upgrades at current hydropower plants.

Meanwhile, it says, Inland Power saved money for its customers with a 16-fold increase in energy efficiency gains in the 2010-11 biennium compared with prior years, meeting a higher percentage of its load with efficiencies than any other utility covered by I-937.

"These two utilities—one investor-owned, and the other a public co-op—have really stepped up to the plate and delivered," said Nancy Hirsh, NW Energy Coalitions' policy director, in a press release outlining compliance progress. "Their customers are reaping the benefits now and will do so for years to come."

I-937 requires the state's largest electric utilities to increase the amount of eligible renewable resources, such as wind, solar, and biomass, in their energy mix, through incremental minimum standards of 3 percent of their load this year, 9 percent by 2016, and 15 percent by 2020.

The initiative was controversial because it didn't count current hydroelectric generation as a renewable source, since the focus is on new capacity, but utilities get credit for projects that boost the generating efficiency of dams.

Utilities generally voiced little concern about their ability to meet the initial 3 percent threshold, but some said they anticipated a greater challenge complying with the subsequent, escalating state-mandated renewable minimums.

The first I-937 check-in covers the biennial 2010-through-2011 period for energy efficiency and utilities' plans for how they'll get 3 percent of their power from eligible renewables this year. Like the 15 other covered utilities, Avista and Inland Power submitted their efficiency achievements and renewables plans to state agencies in June.

Avista nearly doubled its biennial efficiency savings, going from an average of 10 megawatts per biennium between 2004 and 2009 to 18.9 average megawatts of energy savings, or enough to power more than 13,000 homes, the coalition press release says.

Avista's actual savings exceeded its target by more than 4 average megawatts, and its projected savings of 22.6 average megawatts for the 2012-13 biennium is nearly double its 12.4 average megawatt target for that period, coalition data show.

To meet I-937's 3 percent standard for 2012, Avista's energy supply must include 19 average megawatts of eligible renewable resources. In its filing, the utility lists 24.6 average megawatts of eligible renewals it plans to put toward the standard, including 4 average megawatts of Palouse wind project power and 20.6 average megawatts of upgrades at 10 hydropower facilities it operates.

Avista Utilities, part of Avista Corp., serves nearly 360,000 electric customers and nearly 320,000 natural gas customers in Eastern Washington and parts of Idaho and Oregon.

Inland Power

Inland Power, the state's largest electric cooperative, achieved a 16-fold increase in energy efficiency gains in the 2010-11 biennium compared with prior years, meeting a higher percentage of its load with efficiency than any other utility covered by I-937, the coalition says.

Averaging 0.3 megawatts of efficiency savings over the three previous bienniums, the co-op ramped that up to 4.8 average megawatts in the 2010-11 period, which was more than three times its 1.5 megawatt target and enough to power more than 3,300 homes.

That equated to meeting 2.6 percent of its customers' overall power needs with energy efficiency savings, the highest percentage of any of the utilities, and Avista was tied for second at 1.5 percent, coalition data showed.

Inland Power, which is projecting 0.8 of an average megawatt of efficiency savings for the 2012-13 biennium, serves more than 38,000 commercial, residential, and agricultural customers in the Inland Northwest.

It is what's called a "full requirements" customer of the Bonneville Power Administration, meaning that the BPA, which markets the electricity generated by the Northwest's federal dams, provides all of the co-op's power requirements at cost-based rates.

Inland Power reported that it has purchased more than enough renewable energy credits from wind farms, including the Condon, Klondike I, and Stateline projects in Washington and Oregon, to meet its renewables standard, the coalition press release says.

Utilities are free to sell off excess renewable generation or credits until they're needed to meet the 9 percent renewables standard in 2016.

All of the state's 17 largest utilities met or exceeded their 2012 energy efficiency targets, the release says. Collectively, it says, they achieved 229 average megawatts of energy efficiency savings in the latest biennium, or enough to power all of the homes in Spokane and Tacoma combined.

To reach 3 percent eligible renewables, the utilities intend to invest mostly in wind power projects and to wring considerably more hydropower out of existing dams. Upgrades at current hydro facilities are projected to meet 22 percent of the renewables target.

Also, the coalition says, many utilities "bought ahead," acquiring additional renewable resources in preparation for the higher standard that takes effect in four years.

During the last 10 years, it claims, renewable energy investments in the state have totaled more than $8 billion. Those investments, it says, have created more than 5,000 construction jobs and 2,200 permanent jobs.

http://www.spokanejournal.com/article.php?id=8519

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