Idaho Power forms citizens' committee

MAGIC VALLEY, IDAHO - -- Idaho Power Co. has formed a citizens^^ committee to plan for energy growth in Magic Valley, an area the company says could soon face energy reliability problems because of escalating demand.

The committee comes on the heels of similar projects in the Treasure and Wood River valleys, both high-growth areas where committees have formed long-range energy plans.

Magic Valley's 30-person committee is expected to make similar recommendations, including what kind of new energy sources would fit the community and where to place any new transmission lines.

"The committee helps determine the best way to meet the area's needs in the long term," said Lynette Berriochoa, an Idaho Power spokeswoman. "When it comes down to 20 years from now and we need a new substation, we can go to the (committee's) plan and see where they'd like it." Idaho Power has formed the committees in high-growth areas where it anticipates infrastructure upgrades.

In Magic Valley, electric load - or demand on the system - increases by about 10 megawatts annually. That's equal to adding a city the size of Gooding to the grid each year. The company expects Magic Valley's population to nearly double by 2075, from about a quarter-million people to 411,000. That growth will require new energy sources and ways of delivering electricity to customers. Bill Chisholm, who sits on the Magic Valley committee, said he hopes much of that energy will come from sustainable sources.

"Hopefully," he said, "we can push some energy conservation and renewables." Because the committees are a new approach, what weight they'll carry in the company's final decisions remain unclear.

But committee members say it is positive step that Idaho Power seeks their input. "It's in their best interest to be friends with their customers," Chisholm said. "If they can move their agenda along with our own, then we'll all be happy." The committee will hold monthly meetings until June, when it will present a proposal to the utility.


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