BOISE, Idaho Idaho Power Co. told a struggling southeastern Idaho solar-industry manufacturer that the utility could shut off its power by Jan. 3 if it doesn't pay its $1.9 million electricity bill from November.
Honolulu-based polysilicon maker Hoku Corp., which has survived so far with help from Chinese financiers, lodged a formal protest with Idaho Public Utilities Commission regulators after getting a termination of service notice on Dec. 22.
The company's Hoku Materials unit told Idaho Power that it can't pay its November power bill until January due to cash flow problems.
Hoku says losing electricity would delay its Pocatello plant's commissioning and expose infrastructure to freezing just as winter sets in, causing "material harm." Southeastern Idaho's hopes that Hoku's $390 million plant will eventually add hundreds of green-energy jobs to the local economy have been replaced by uncertainty over whether the project will survive. . .
Hoku announced it had hooked up to Idaho Power's substation only in November, the same month it couldn't pay its power bill.
"With the addition of permanent power, we are able to start-up the plant," Hoku Chief Executive Officer Scott Paul said on Nov. 21.
Now, it wants Idaho Power to use some of the $4 million Hoku had previously deposited with the utility as security for its power bills to cover the November charges, according to its filing. . .
. . . The plant was originally supposed to be operational in 2008, but it struggled to raise funds to complete the facility as the economy soured.
In March, Hoku received the second installment of a $50 million loan from majority owner Tianwei New Energy Holdings Co. of China that has helped keep the company afloat.
As the company's share price has plunged to well below $1, from a 52-week high of $3.24, the company's management has been in turmoil, too.
(Note: Supplying electricity to the Hoku plant in Pocatello was one of the rationales for the Boardman to Hemingway line.)