Don't Be Kept In the Dark

CURRENT SITUATION:

Affordability is the Key to Retaining Idaho Manufacturing Jobs and Protecting a Fragile Economy

Historically, Idaho has sold its low cost electricity as an attractor to business. When the Governor’s “Project 60” was first rolled out, Idaho’s comparatively low energy cost was highly touted as a primary reason to “bring your business to Idaho.” We agree with the draft Plan’s finding that:

The Idaho economy is largely based on low cost energy, for example extensive agricultural pumping, energy intensive industry, and relatively high-use in residences.

This is especially true for the primary employers in Idaho’s manufacturing base. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Idaho’s 1,942 manufacturing businesses employed approximately 52,900 Idahoans. Idaho’s top ten manufacturing sectors (by employment) include:

Manufacturing Sector

2011 Employment

Semiconductors and related devices
Dried and dehydrated food
Other millwork (including flooring)
Frozen fruit, juice and vegetables
Beet sugar
Sawmill products
Travel trailers and campers
Paper (except newsprint)
Cheese
Medical and botanical products

6,284
1,869
1,820
1,669
1,275
1,151
1,122
1,110
1,025
828

Every one of these top ten sectors is found in the upper 50% of energy intensive industries. The unfortunate news is that Idaho is losing these solid, well-paying manufacturing jobs. In its October 2011 Work Force Trends, the Idaho Department of Labor tracks a decade of manufacturing job decline.


Escalating Energy Prices Reduce Jobs and Standards of Living

Substantial deterioration in the standard of living can be caused by rapidly escalating energy costs. The 2012 draft Idaho Energy Plan makes frequent mention of Idaho’s “low priced electric service as compared to other states.” It does not mention how that advantage is disappearing. As charted below, electric rates in Idaho’s Rocky Mountain Power service territory are increasing at rates significantly higher than the Consumer Price Index. In most household and business budgets, this will mean each year a greater allocation to paying the power bill, leaving fewer dollars for household necessities, educational costs, wages and salaries, or purchase or replacement of new equipment.

Rocky Mountain Power Electric Base Rates vs. Consumer Price Index (% increase since 2006)

graph 

Part of the reason “affordability” must be a paramount objective of any state energy plan is that no such plan should accept declining standards of living as an acceptable end point. “Affordability” should be defined, at a minimum, as limiting increases in energy costs to not exceed the average rate of increase in other goods and services.

 

how you can help:

Contact your legislators and tell them to support the Electric Utility Rate Impact Disclosure Act and have YOUR say about what electric utility investments YOU pay for.