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Comments sought on utility irrigation program changes






By JOHN O'CONNELL


Capital Press


Growers within the Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power coverage areas now have the opportunity to weigh in on proposed changes to separate programs intended to help them reduce their irrigation costs.


The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will accept public comment through July 15 on Rocky Mountain Power's proposal to suspend programs providing irrigators with free exchanges of worn nozzles, gaskets and drains and a financial incentive for pivot and linear equipment improvements.


Idaho Power has scheduled a series of workshops in which growers can offer their input on how to best change the irrigation peak rewards program, which offers incentives for growers to shut off pumps during peak hours.


Rocky Mountain Power hired a third party, Navigant Consulting, to study the programs. According to Rocky Mountain's press release, the consultant's report found, "It appears that the nozzle exchange and prescriptive pivot and linear system upgrades are not cost-effective based on the information available."


The utility hopes to offer similar assistance in the future on a case-by-case basis, based on a custom analysis of cost savings from improvements.


Banida, Idaho, grower Von Gregersen has relied heavily on the programs and believes they have helped him save on both water and power.


"It's been a great thing for me," Gregersen said. "I think you'll find my wheel lines and hand lines are as tight as anybody in the country. I don't like wasting water."


HIs neighbor, Daryl Geddes, wasn't aware of the program until recently and intends to replace some worn gaskets and heads before its scheduled to end on July 20.


"The problem I think is a lot of irrigators are unaware of it," Geddes said. "It's just one of those things that reminds us to keep our equipment in good condition."


The PUC will accept comments via a link on its website at www.puc.idaho.gov, or by mailing comments to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074. Fill in the case number PAC-E-13-10. Comments may also be faxed to 208-334-3762.


At Idaho Power's request, the PUC has temporarily suspended its irrigation peak rewards program, which provides incentives to growers who reduce energy consumption during the company's peak demand. The company has provided irrigators so-called continuity payments to make up for the lost program and has scheduled four workshops, beginning July 10, to accept public comment on how to set up a new program.


Last year, Idaho Power spent $12.3 million on its peak irrigation program and $5.5 million on a residential air conditioning program it's also suspended. PUC spokesman Gene Fadness said Idaho Power claims it can obtain peak power more cheaply through its own generation resources and spot-market purchases.


Additional workshops are scheduled for July 23, Aug. 7 and Aug. 19. They all begin at 9 a.m. in the public meeting room of Idaho Power headquarters, 1221 W. Idaho St., Boise. Those who can't attend may participate via telephone by calling 1-877-820-7831 and entering the participant code 2456163#. Documents about the case are also available at www.puc.idaho.gov.



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