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Energy Future in Coachella Discussed at IID Meeting

The Imperial Irrigation District gave its first look at what a commission to discuss energy continuation in the Coachella Valley would look like. 

The Board of Directors, following up on action taken in June, looked at bylaws for the Coachella Valley Energy Commission, a group that is set to be made up of representatives from Imperial and Coachella valleys to discuss future energy concerns for those outside of IID’s water service area. 

Imperial Irrigation District Division 2 Director JB Hamby

The commission is a “reasonable and much better alternative to AB 1021,” said Vice President of the Board JB Hamby. Assembly Bill 1021, introduced by Assemblyman Chad Mayes, I-Rancho Mirage, would require non-voting board members representing the Coachella Valley be added to the IID Board of Directors. 

The district has almost 100,000 energy customers in the Coachella Valley, which makes up about 60 percent of the district’s energy customers. 

The commission allows for “local solutions to local problems,” Hamby said. 

According to the bylaws presented on Tuesday, July 6, and scheduled to be voted on July 13 at the board’s La Quinta meeting, the commission would be made up of 14 members, with meetings held monthly and locations rotated. However, Hamby said, this is something that can change depending on what the commission itself wants. 

“This is not something that is set in stone,” he said. “This is something that should evolve.”

Those are words echoed by IID General Counsel Frank Oswalt when he was asked whether he had had a chance to take a look at the bylaws.

“This is a working document,” he said. “It is not written in stone.”

As creating the commission is new ground, the legal department working with Hamby worked to make the bylaws familiar, similar to the IID board bylaws. What’s new, Oswalt said, is who’s going to be on the commission and what their mission is going to be. 

The main goals, said President of the Board Jim Hanks, are to keep three things from happening: not add members to the IID board that don’t live in the water service area, keeping anything about water rights out of AB 1021, and keep IID’s water boundaries the same. 

“Those three lines in the sand are very critical,” he said.

Some were not as enthused about parts of the bylaws. 

Director Alex Cardenas said he would like to see the process slowed down as language had been added to AB 1021 dealing with water that he said would not pass the state Senate. 

“This is a bad bill,” he said, adding that an 11th hour introduction of water into the conversation was disingenuous. “Maybe we do need to pump the brakes and see where we’re at.”

He also added he is not in support of two different energy rates, one for the Coachella Valley and one for the Imperial Valley. And he felt that bringing forth this commission would require a different, higher energy rate in the Coachella Valley to cover the cost of creating the commission. 

Hanks replied that the district is trying to give an option, so people won’t support the bill should it be reintroduced. 

Interconnection Agreements Discussed

There was little discussion about three interconnection agreements that are set to be voted on July 13. The total cost of interconnection, which would be covered by the developers, totals almost $27 million. 

The first project, with an estimated interconnection cost of $4.701 million, would be for a 100-megawatt photovoltaic generation project on 530 acres south of the All American Canal. The second, with an estimated interconnection cost of $13.710 million, would be for a 240-megawatt photovoltaic generation with storage project on 1,700 acres near Flowing Wells Road and Noffsinger Road west of Niland. The third project, with an estimated interconnection cost of $8.490 million, would be for a 60-megawatt photovoltaic generation and storage project located on 590 acres near Coachella Canal Road and Noffsinger Road west of Niland. 

Hamby mentioned after the first item that he was in support of projects like these that are not located on agricultural land. 

“I’m in support for it when it’s in the right place,” he said.