Idaho Power balances water supply and energy costs

Posted at 5:15 PM, Apr 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-05 19:15:56-04

There's plenty of water rushing over Idaho Power's hydroelectric dams, but that doesn't necessarily mean customers will see a reduction on power bills this year.

"It depends on the time of year, but many times of the year we can supply as much as 40 percent of the power that we need through hydroelectricity," Ben Brandt, Director of Load Serving Operations at Idaho Power, said.

Idaho Power reports snowpack drainages that feed the snake river above Hells Canyon remain more than 125 percent above the 30 year average. 

"The more water we have, that's fuel for our hydro units... that's our cheapest resource on the grid," Brandt said. "That can potentially lower [energy] prices if the water comes out of the mountains at the right time."

Though all the water could help lower the cost of energy, don't expect a big drop on your power bills.

Due to PURPA, or the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act,  Idaho Power must buy renewables like solar and wind power, even with plenty of hydropower at the ready. 

"That energy comes at a very premium price," Brandt said. "It's our highest priced resource, and we have to purchase it. Not only do we have to purchase that energy, but we have to make room for it in our service area by reducing our hydro output."

It's a delicate balance, but Idaho Power says they're doing their best to keep energy prices low. 

"We take the mix of resources we have, whether they're hydro, thermal, renewable resources... and then we match that up with what your load is and then we do our best...  to supply that load with the lowest cost energy available," Brandt said.