PUC rejects Idaho Power’s request to reverse solar rate decision
Declines to clarify fair compensation for new solar customers
Boise, ID — On Wednesday, February 5, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission rejected Idaho Power Company’s second request to impose a settlement to end the popular net metering program and reduce the amount solar customers earn for energy they send to the grid. In December, the Commission rejected this same settlement based on the testimony of over 1,000 Idahoans who opposed the settlement and the lack of an underlying study of the benefits solar can bring to Idaho.
In upholding their decision, the Commissioners protected the public process to design a comprehensive study of the costs and benefits to the grid of customer-owned solar. “We find the Company’s proposal discounts the ability of public input to shape the scope method and results of a comprehensive study”, wrote the Commission.
“Once again, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission is standing up for the people of Idaho,” said Ben Otto of the Idaho Conservation League. “It’s clear that the Commission wants to take the time to do this right, listen to Idaho families and businesses, and not be bullied by Idaho Power.”
The Commission did change its original ruling that would have voided legacy access to the net metering program in the event someone were to sell their home, deciding instead that legacy net metering status should stay with the property. The Commission also updated its original ruling to allow for small changes to a solar installation to address repairs without putting net metering eligibility at risk. If an existing customer adds additional solar capacity, the old system remains on the net metering program and the new system will be subject to the new program.
The Commission also decided Wednesday not to address a motion for reconsideration from advocacy groups Idaho Conservation League, Vote Solar and Earthjustice, that asked for clarity for new solar customers who desire to go solar but do not qualify for legacy treatment under the traditional net metering program.
“Unfortunately, Idaho families and businesses that choose to go solar today will not have clarity on how or if they will be compensated for excess energy they provide to the grid,” said Briana Kobor of Vote Solar. “Effectively, this means that customers do not have a choice. Without clear signals from the Commission they are left in a state of limbo as the Commission undergoes the required cost-benefit analysis of the current compensation program, net-metering.”
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.