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Colburn: Transmission line will benefit entire region

By Mitch Colburn

Idaho Power

Published on February 2, 2018 8:12AM

Mitch Colburn

Mitch Colburn


Recently, there has been an uptick in letters to the editor about Idaho Power’s Boardman to Hemingway transmission line project. While we want the public to share their opinions, Idaho Power also wants the information shared to be accurate and fair.

Transmission lines provide flexibility to balance regional energy needs. They are designed to handle any type of power generation and provide the ability to economically serve customer demand over large geographic areas. B2H is a low-cost option to serve Idaho Power customers, including about 19,000 in Oregon.

Analysis shows the need for B2H to provide energy to customers is still strong. The B2H project was initiated in 2007, after first being identified as a cost-effective option in Idaho Power’s 2006 Integrated Resource Plan. The year-long IRP process is thorough and transparent, and involves members of the public who devote months of hard work to the end result.

Over the last decade, there has been much analysis and collaboration between B2H stakeholders to determine a line route that minimizes impacts. These stakeholders include farmers, ranchers, local and state governments and those interested in preserving the Oregon Trail. We see these collaborative conversations continuing, even though the Bureau of Land Management has approved us to site the line on the public land it manages.

We are committed to minimizing any visual impacts from B2H. The right-of-way will be 250 feet at its widest only, and some towers allow us to be as narrow as 150 feet in some locations. The average tower height will be around 140 feet. In some areas, we expect to use alternative tower types to mitigate visual impact to the Oregon Trail.

We have worked to limit the number of new roads we need to build. In fact, over half the necessary access will use existing roads. We’re making every effort to minimize the crossings of active creeks and streams, especially those that are habitat for salmon and trout.

In analyzing the need for a new resource to serve customers, we considered many options, including distributed generation (such as roof-top solar), demand-reduction and energy efficiency. These options can supplement B2H, and we’re willing and able to use those resources. But the reality is those small-scale sources are not able to replace the benefits of a 1,050 megawatt transmission line.

Building and operating B2H will cost money. Idaho Power is a publicly held company, and does provide its shareholders a return on their investment — just like businesses all over the world. However, our mission as a company is to ensure our customers have the energy they need, 24/7. Idaho Power and our regional project partners, Bonneville Power Administration and PacifiCorp, are building B2H to serve our customers.

Those customers will ultimately pay for this project that benefits them. That is something we’ve always been very transparent about. The cost estimate for B2H is $1 billion to $1.2 billion. However, Idaho Power currently only has a 21 percent stake in the project, meaning that our customers—including those we serve in Oregon—will not see anywhere near $1.2 billion total reflected in their energy prices.

Customers expect safe, reliable, low-cost electrical power whenever they need it, and that requires infrastructure. The existing system does not have enough capacity for periods of high demand, or to reliably and economically serve future customer needs. Fortunately, there is a solution in B2H, which will ensure customers have reliable, responsible, fair-priced energy for decades to come.

Mitch Colburn is Idaho Power’s Resource Planning and Operations Director.



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