BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Idaho Power Co.'s programs to trim summer electricity use when demand skyrockets may have been saved, but customers would have less financial incentive to participate and won't get as much warning when air conditioners and irrigation pumps are being shut off.
The provisions are part of a tentative agreement announced by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.
The measures are aimed at preserving load-reduction programs that help trim the need for Idaho Power to buy expensive electricity on the open market or build new plants.
"The programs are valuable, they cause customers to think about ways that you can (manage) electrical demand in less costly ways," Gene Fadness, a spokesman for the commission, said Monday.
The commission is taking comment through Oct. 28 on the measures announced Friday.
If the agreement is adopted by the commission, ratepayers could pay $16.7 million annually for the modified reduction programs.
Last December, Idaho Power sought to suspend its popular load-reduction programs for the 37,000 residential and irrigation customers that had signed up for them, on grounds the measures were costing ratepayers more than the energy they saved.
Planning documents indicated the utility, a subsidiary of IdaCorp. Inc., said it wouldn't need the programs again before at least 2016.
The programs were modified for the past summer, with significantly reduced payments continuing to participants — largely to ensure they didn't completely exit and remove load-control devices from their houses or farms.
Since June, however, the utility has been meeting with the Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association and environmentalists from the Idaho Conservation League and the Snake River Alliance, among others, over alternatives to continuing the load-reduction programs in future years at a more sustainable cost.
Under the proposed agreement announced Friday, Idaho Power's "A/C Cool Credit" program, created in 2003, would pay participants a $15 credit over two months as opposed to the previous $7 per month credit for three months. Additionally, Idaho Power wouldn't actively market the program, instead recruiting only customers who move into a home where a load-control device is already installed.
Farmers who participate in the utility's Irrigation Peak Rewards program would see similar changes that reduce Idaho Power's financial obligations.
The utility said it's satisfied the agreement will help maintain participation in demand reduction programs for a time in the future when they are truly needed, while minimizing ongoing costs to Idaho Power's customers, said spokeswoman Stephanie McCurdy.
Ben Otto, an energy policy analyst for Boise-based Idaho Conservation League, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The utility has 370,000 ratepayers in Idaho.
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com
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