Heber Light & Power Issues Survey As They Consider Current Power Portfolio

Heber Light & Power is conducting a survey amongst their customers to look at where future energy should come from for the utility.

Every five years or so Heber Light and Power conducts an integrated resource plan to take a look at the company’s current power portfolio and look ahead to the future. General Manager Jason Norlen says part of that plan includes a survey of customers.

“Get a sense from the ratepayers what kind of resources they’d like to see,” Norlen continued. “Are they really driven on what kind of fuel is used in their energy, their electricity? Or, are they driven on you know they want renewables? We’re exploring this nuclear project and is that something that our customers are OK with? It gives us really good information going forward on where the investment should be made in the power portfolio.”

They’ve had around 500 residents take the survey. Norlen says in the last year they’ve invested in two different power purchase agreements. One is with a geothermal and solar plant near Fallon Nevada, that agreement goes through 2032. Additionally, they’ve agreed to subscribe to five megawatts of solar power from a project on the Navajo reservation in southeastern Utah. The project is run by the Navajo Tribal Authorities.

Meanwhile other projects are coming offline.

“We know we do have coal coming offline. IPP, a big coal plant by Delta, is coming offline in 2025 and converting to natural gas,”Norlen explained. “Shrinking to one third the size that it is today, as far as total production.”

Norlen says their other coal unit in Emery County is tentatively scheduled to come offline after 2030. He says that the writing on the wall is that coal plants will be coming offline, meaning Heber Light & Power will have to find a replacement for that baseload energy. Norlen says they currently have a lot of renewable energies in the mix somewhere between 30-40% annually. That percentage of their power portfolio fluctuates depending on the time of year. For example, the Jordanelle Dam provides around 12-13 megawatts in May and around three megawatts in October.

“In April and May, we could be well over 50% renewable because of high water coming down and our hydro’s are running full steam,” Norlen said. “In the fall/wintertime of the year you know we might shrink down to 25% renewable because the hydro’s are now just going at run of the stream or whatever the water users demand is. So, that kind of gives you a sense of how renewables work. Our wind farm, that varies every day. We might have a good breeze in Idaho today, we’re getting half a megawatt but on a nice calm day in Idaho we’re getting zero.”

Right now, Heber Light & Power has a program that allows those that want to have 100% renewable to sign up for it through a special rate. Norlen says going 100% renewable for the entire utility brings up issue with reliability.

“You’ve also got to have the portfolio with a good enough mix in it that you can make sure you balance your loads,” Norlen explained. “Because that wind happens to shut down, you’ve got to be able to backfill it somewhere.”

One consideration for filling that need by Heber Light & Power is a nuclear power project in Idaho. Norlen says the project is still conducting scenarios to make sure the location is right for the project and analyzing cooling options for the proposed plant.

“The technology itself is currently at the Nuclear Regulatory (Commission),” Norlen continued. “They’re going through all of their checks to permit that particular technology too. This isn’t anything like the plants that were built in the (19)70’s this is next generation type stuff.”

Norlen adds there are still plenty of off-ramps built in the preliminary deal Heber Light & Power has signed. He says the power board can can exit out of the deal based on pricing issues or even just the dynamics on the power board. You can find the link on their website.

Read the original story at KPCW.org