Transmission lines are like interstate highways of the electrical grid. They move large amounts of electricity across long distances, from the places it is generated to the communities that use it. Distribution lines are smaller power lines that deliver electricity directly to homes and businesses.
Population and business growth are increasing the demand for electricity in the Northwest. Existing transmission lines are full and will not be able to meet this demand. B2H will increase the amount of electricity that can be moved throughout the region, providing customers across the Northwest with reliable, affordable electricity.
B2H will also help people access energy generated by wind, solar and other clean energy sources. This will help keep energy affordable while reducing carbon emissions and promoting energy independence.
Transmission lines between these two states are full. Additional transmission capacity will connect Idaho Power, Bonneville Power Administration and PacifiCorp customers across eight western states, allowing for more efficient and cost-effective transmission of energy. This will help ensure that customers of all three utilities receive reliable, affordable, clean energy year-round.
Idaho Power has worked closely with the public, local governments and regulators across eastern Oregon to develop a path for the line that maximizes benefits to the region and minimizes burdens. Idaho Power has revised B2H’s path in response to community input and will continue to work directly with stakeholders to minimize the line’s impacts. For an example of Idaho Power’s work with community members, see the final report on the Community Advisory Process – a comprehensive public process that shaped the route Idaho Power has proposed to state and federal regulators.
Idaho Power has evaluated alternatives to B2H through its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Every two years, Idaho Power projects demand for energy over the next 20 years and analyzes a variety of ways to meet that demand. Idaho Power then uses computer modelling of these alternatives and input from a wide variety of interested groups — including irrigators, major customers, environmental groups, regulators, government agencies and the public — to determine the lowest-cost, most reliable and most desirable mix of alternatives. This mix is identified in Idaho Power’s IRP, which is then reviewed by regulatory agencies in Idaho and Oregon.
Since 2006, Idaho Power and its stakeholders have identified B2H as an essential resource that minimizes cost and risk. Alternatives that were considered but determined to be more costly or infeasible include:
- Battery storage — Using batteries to meet customer demand would be significantly more expensive for customers than B2H.
- Additional natural gas-driven power plants — These plants would produce more carbon emissions and be more expensive for customers than B2H.
- Energy efficiency and demand response — Idaho Power operates extensive programs and will expand them as feasible. Expansion alone is unlikely to meet our customers’ needs.
- Wind or solar generation – These energy sources are a valuable part of Idaho Power’s energy mix. Building enough wind or solar capacity to meet customer needs would cost much more than B2H.
Five high-voltage transmission lines run between the Pacific Northwest and Idaho. All of them are at capacity, meaning they cannot carry more electricity during times of peak demand.
B2H will connect two regions that have abundant supplies of clean energy, but a mismatch between peak production and customer demand.
In the Pacific Northwest, electricity demand peaks in the winter as customers use electricity to heat their homes and businesses. But the availability of clean electricity produced in this region, primarily from hydroelectric dams, peaks in the spring and summer when rivers are full of winter snowmelt.
In the Intermountain West, electricity demand peaks in the summer when irrigation pumps and air conditioners are working overtime. But production of this region’s abundant wind and solar energy peaks in the winter.
By connecting both regions, B2H will allow customers in the Pacific Northwest to access the Intermountain West’s wind and solar energy in the winter. Customers in the Intermountain West will be able to access the Pacific Northwest’s hydropower in the summer. This will allow customers in both regions to embrace more clean energy and rely less on expensive, carbon-emitting power plants.
Here are some of the project’s economic benefits to eastern Oregon:
- Construction of B2H will bring jobs and customers to eastern Oregon. Whether it’s a hotel booking more guests, a restaurant selling more meals, a supply store providing materials and equipment for the job, or a local contractor helping build B2H. The project is expected to generate 500 construction jobs alone.
- After it’s built, B2H will add millions of dollars to the yearly tax base of the counties it crosses from the property taxes the project’s owners will pay. The counties can choose how they use this money. Examples of projects they might fund include improvements to parks, roads and schools.
- B2H will also lead to long-term jobs and economic-development opportunities in eastern Oregon. The project will free up capacity on local power lines. This capacity could support new power-intensive businesses like data centers and renewable energy projects. B2H will also present opportunities for energy entrepreneurs, whether they’re building solar arrays, wind turbines or other energy sources. The capacity that B2H adds to the system will give these businesses a way to connect their projects to the grid and sell their energy.
Learn more about the economic benefits B2H will bring to eastern Oregon in this video.
Typically, investment in additional transmission facilities and their associated operating expenses are included in future rates at the time the facilities start to provide service. Transmission investments are reviewed by regulatory commissioners prior to the inclusion in rates. It is too soon to tell how this project would affect utility rates for Idaho Power customers.