Advocacy groups request clarity, fair compensation for new solar customers
Boise, ID — Solar and environmental advocacy groups are moving ahead under the Idaho Public Utilities Commission’s December decision to reject Idaho Power’s proposed settlement to end its popular net metering program and reduce the amount solar customers earn for energy they send to the grid. To help Idahoans understand their options and allow for predictable business conditions, public advocacy groups are asking the PUC to extend net-metering to all solar customers who sign up before new compensation rules go into effect.
While rejecting the settlement, the Commission also ruled that existing solar owners are protected from any future changes to the program, but left the fate of interim solar customers unclear. These are Idaho Power customers who go solar between December 20, 2019 and when new rates are announced.
The Commission’s decision reflects the testimony of over 1,000 Idahoans who opposed the settlement. After rejecting the proposed settlement as not in the public interest, the Commissioners ordered the utility and PUC staff to initiate a public process to design a comprehensive study of the costs and benefits to the grid of customer-owned solar. This study will inform future rates. The Idaho Conservation League, Vote Solar and Earthjustice submitted this request for reconsideration asking the Commission to extend eligibility for net-metering to all customers with solar or solar contracts before the new rate decision.
Meanwhile, on Friday, January 10, Idaho Power Company asked the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to disregard public opinion, overturn their own decision, or, as an alternative, to move ahead with some of the settlement’s proposed changes to the net metering program. In particular, if the Commission maintains their decision, Idaho Power still wants a single term in the settlement be implemented, changing from a monthly to an hourly calculation of the way customers with solar are billed, while providing no increased certainty to the customer about the value of an investment in rooftop solar.
“We are disappointed Idaho Power continues to undermine Idahoans who invest their own money in solar power electricity systems,” said Ben Otto of the Idaho Conservation League. “Rather, we look forward to working with the Commission to create a robust, transparent and inclusive process to create a fair and stable solar policy for the future.”
“The Commission listened to the public in rejecting the settlement and setting up a new process with considerable public involvement,” said Briana Kobor of Vote Solar. “Now, the Commission must reject Idaho Power’s shameless effort to undermine the Idaho families and small businesses who want to invest in local, affordable clean energy, and further improve upon their original decision by extending fair compensation to new solar customers while this process moves forward.”
“Families who own their solar generation deserve a transparent evaluation of the true value of the clean, renewable energy they provide to the utility,” said David Bender of Earthjustice, which represented Vote Solar in the proceeding.
Idahoans can contact the PUC and thank them for protecting customers who wish to go solar and encourage the Commission to uphold and clarify their December decision by going to https://puc.idaho.gov/Form/CaseComment, (Case Number IPC-E-18-15), or sending a letter to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, Idaho 83720-0074.
Idaho Power Company serves over 560,000 customers in Idaho and Oregon. Its service territory stretches across the region from Ontario, OR to Blackfoot, ID, and includes the major metropolitan areas of Boise, Twin Falls and Pocatello.
Idaho’s solar industry currently employs 557 people and has invested over $645 million in the state. Idaho ranks 21st in installed solar with over 488 megawatts installed, enough to power 64,443 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association.
ICL protects Idaho’s air quality and climate stability by working to eliminate Idaho’s reliance on fossil fuels for electricity. ICL engages with Idaho utilities, regulators and customers to create policies that encourage developing Idaho’s own clean energy sources. Unlike out-of-state fossil fuels, solar, wind and geothermal power is produced right here in Idaho and puts electricians, home builders and other local companies to work.
Vote Solar’s mission is to make solar a mainstream energy resource across the U.S. Since 2002, Vote Solar has been working to lower solar costs and expand solar access. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Vote Solar advocates for state policies and programs needed to repower our electric grid with clean energy. Vote Solar works to remove regulatory barriers and implement key policies needed to bring solar to scale.
Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.