Printed on: May 01, 2013

Papers filed on sale of power plant

The sale is still subject to the approval of public utility regulators

Rexburg Standard Journal

ST. ANTHONY -- Signs are pointing toward the sale of Rocky Mountain's St. Anthony Power Plant to a private buyer.

The power company filed an application April 9 with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission for approval of the sale of the hydroelectric plant.

Six days later, on April 15, the company filed another request to the PUC for approval of a 20-year power purchase agreement between Rocky Mountain Power and St. Anthony Hydro LLC. That agreement is pending approval of the power plant sale.

St. Anthony Hydro LLC was registered as a company with the Idaho Secretary of State's Office on July 23 by Ted Sorenson of Idaho Falls, a hydroelectric project developer.

Sorenson said he could not comment on the transaction.

Rocky Mountain Power spokesman David Eskelsen also declined to discuss the proposal.

"It's company policy not to comment further on such agreements until they are finalized," Eskelsen said.

Rocky Mountain called for proposals in February 2012 from potential power plant buyers. The plant has been inoperable since 2002.

Last summer, the St. Anthony City Council approved a request from the power company to subdivide property the company owns in the city.

The move will allow the company to keep the property where its St. Anthony power substation is located and sell the power plant and associated other properties.

According to the April 9 filing with the PUC, the power company considered three alternatives before deciding to sell the hydro plant -- repairing the damaged equipment, refurbishing and modernizing the plant, or decommissioning it.

All of the options were "unfavorable to customers," the company said in its PUC filing seeking approval of the sale.

The company sent requests for proposals to 31 potential buyers.

Six parties expressed interest. Of the six, three submitted "conforming offers," the PUC filing said. Based on the bids received, the sale will be below book value, "akin to decommissioning," the company told regulators.

The filing said bidder No. 3 made the best offer. The name of that bidder was not publicly disclosed.

"The sale of the St. Anthony plant serves the public interest because it represents the best balance of cost and risk for customers," the company said.

Because the company is government-regulated, any sale is subject to the approval of public utility regulators.

The hydroelectric plant is federally licensed as part of a package with the company's Ashton Dam and hydroelectric project.

"If a sale agreement is reached, the company will file a license amendment with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to remove the sold property from the license," Eskelsen told the Standard Journal last year.

The plant, built in 1903, is located on the Henry's Fork in St. Anthony. It has the capacity to produce 5,000 megawatt hours per year.

St. Anthony Mayor Neils Thueson said such a sale would be good for the city.

It would provide tax revenue. The long-broken plant could become productive and maintained. And, he said, hydroelectric power is good clean power.