Mitch Colburn, an Idaho Power spokesman for the controversial Boardman to Hemingway transmission line, insists that demands for electricity will increase and a shortfall will exist by 2025, but my research shows that the market is not growing. Idaho power’s billed sales (in all categories of customers) for the last 10 years have been essentially flat, if not declining. That’s supported by reports from the U.S. government and Idaho Power’s own data.
Changes in electric utilities are occurring so rapidly that most industry analysts propose “strategic positioning” as the best investment to make at this time. However, the B2H is a highly centralized, $1.2 billion mega-project that guarantees an $80 million dollar profit to Idaho Power and their partners’ shareholders, but does not serve the ratepayers or the public. The five Eastern Oregon counties that would be crossed by the line will see irreparable environmental and cultural damages and increasing grid defections, leaving only the poorest of communities to pay the bills. Idaho Powers’ 12-year-old B2H plans are based on an old-school approach that has consistently ignored dramatic changes in power sources, delivery and storage.
For about a century, affordable electrification has been based on economies of scale, with large generating plants producing hundreds or thousands of megawatts of power, sent to distant users through a vast transmission and distribution grid. Today, utility industry developments are replacing that simple model.
At the top of the list is the availability of low-cost natural gas and solar power. Generators based on these resources can be built much closer to customers. We are now in the early stages of an expansion of distributed generation, which is already lessening the need for costly and wasteful long-distance transmission.
The insecurity of a centralized transmission system is not in our best interest. If one large transmission line goes down, perhaps due to terrorism or forest fire, entire cities are blacked out and vulnerable. With distributed generation, most areas would still have power.
Ongoing price declines and technological advances in energy generation and distribution show the proposed B2H transmission line will be obsolete from the onset. Considering decreasing consumer demands and the rapid and dramatic changes in the industry, Idaho Power’s self-serving efforts to support need for the B2H are neither credible nor realistic.
Contact StopB2H.org for more information.
JoAnn Marlette, member, Stop B2H Coalition