By JOHN O'CONNELL
BOISE, Idaho -- The Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association has intervened in separate cases before the state Public Utilities Commission affecting growers who receive credits to voluntarily curtail irrigation during peak power hours.
The irrigators intervened Jan. 7 in Idaho Power Co.'s case, which seeks to suspend its irrigation and other demand response programs for a year. Idaho Power intends to reevaluate the programs with stakeholders before reinstating them in the summer of 2014.
The association also intervened Dec. 11 in Rocky Mountain Power Co.'s proposal to turn its current irrigation incentives programs over to a private contractor, Boston-based EnerNoc, Inc.
The irrigators also requested public hearings in both cases. Intervenors are outside parties that enter legal proceedings involving others based on a "substantial and direct interest" in the subject matter.
Idaho Power's 2013 Integrated Resource Plan shows it has an adequate power supply and doesn't foresee a peak-hour power deficit until July 2016.
More than 600 irrigators participated in Idaho Power's Irrigation Peak Rewards program last season, for a combined power capacity of about 330 megawatts.
In 2012, Idaho Power spent about $12.3 million from January through November on Irrigation Peak Rewards. Idaho Power has asked the commission to render a decision by March 1 to allow time to prepare for peak irrigation programs if their request is denied.
Rocky Mountain Power's contract will hold EnerNoc responsible for meeting specific megawatt targets for peak demand reduction.
"That provides an incentive for them to be the most efficient they can be," said Rocky Mountain spokesman Dave Eskelsen.
EnerNoc, which manages 25 contracts with other utilities in which it's paid based on performance, will replace Rocky Mountain's outdated irrigation program equipment with devices capable of determining if pumps are running on 5-minute intervals. EnerNoc will also recruit program participants, award credits and maintain equipment. Rocky Mountain previously worked with a contractor charged with providing and maintaining equipment for the irrigation programs.
Eskelsen said EnerNoc's program should be "fundamentally the same." Lynn Tominaga, executive director of the irrigators' organization, hopes that proves to be the case.
"It's very curious to us. You have Rocky Mountain, and you have irrigators, and you have EnerNoc in between, and EnerNoc is not going to do this unless they make money," Tominaga said. "The question is how is EnerNoc going to make money off of this proposal? That's what we want to ask EnerNoc."
In 2012, Rocky Mountain Power paid for 244 megawatts of irrigation curtailment but realized only 139 megawatts, according to the company's application with the PUC. Eskelsen explained not every participant irrigates at the same time, so the program must buy more capacity than it uses in order to curtail the desired amount during peak hours.
Rocky Mountain Power had hoped to make the change effective Feb. 1. The PUC, however, recently ruled that it will need more time to review the application and won't issue a final order until on or before Aug. 3, meaning the irrigation program could run as usual this season pending a decision.
No public comment deadlines have been set. Comments on either case may be posted at www.puc.idaho.gov.