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Solar advocates speak out against Idaho Powers attempt to gut net metering

Business and Financial Times

Advocates are raising concerns about a proposal from Idaho Power Company that would increase utility bills and uncertainty for many businesses and farmers that want to use solar energy to meet their own electricity needs. The utilitys application to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, which was filed Friday, seeks to immediately suspend the states net metering solar program for its Commercial, Industrial and Irrigation Customers and keep those markets closed until 2020. Vote Solar and Idaho Conservation League are urging the Commission to reject this latest attempt by the utility to protect its monopoly energy business at the expense of competitive clean energy and consumer choice.

Idaho has a tradition of fostering independent businesses and individual choice. Rooftop solar is a great example of this, with local companies seeking to help individuals meet their own energy needs with competitive clean options. Now the monopoly utility is trying to unilaterally change the rules of the game just as Idahos independent solar industry is starting to grow, said Ben Otto, energy associate with the Idaho Conservation League. This unfair and unjustified move to squash competition from the local solar industry also undercuts Idaho Powers recent announcement to go 100% clean. To achieve this goal will require a wide variety of clean energy developments, including distributed energy systems where customers spend their own money to meet their own needs.

Idaho Power may be promising 100% clean energy, but now the monopoly utility is making clear that it wants to be the only one that controls that affordable, reliable clean power, said Briana Kobor, regulatory director with Vote Solar. Every Idaho family, church, school and business should have the right to go solar on their own property if they so choose, and they deserve fair net metering compensation and predictability from their utility for making that investment. This proposal is bad for businesses that want to go solar, bad for Idahos growing solar job market and another worrisome blow to consumer choice and energy freedom from this utility.

Net metering makes sure that solar customers receive fair credit on their utility bills for the valuable, reliable electricity they deliver to the grid. This individual investment in local solar power reduces the need for expensive utility infrastructure, lowers energy bills and supports local solar installation jobs. This sudden move by Idaho Power to restrict net metering is already impacting local energy businesses that have developed pipelines of planned solar projects for commercial, industrial and irrigation customers across the state.

We are a third-generation family-owned Idaho solar company and shocked to hear of the recent filing as 75% of our projected revenue for 2019 comes from agricultural and commercial projects, said Cat Gietzen of Gietzen Solar. In our experience, it has become clear that the impact of electrical costs on agricultural operations can be extremely prohibitive and solar has given them the opportunity to combat those costs. We hope the Public Utilities Commission will realize the detrimental impact this could have on local Idaho businesses and their families.

Fridays filing comes on the heels of a 2017-2018 proceeding in which the utility created a discriminatory new rate class for its residential and small commercial net metering customers for the purpose of modifying net metering in the future, making it the latest in a series of attempts from Idaho Power to weaken this important consumer solar right. The Commission is expected to take up the case in the coming weeks and Vote Solar and Idaho Conservation League will be advocating for fair treatment for Idaho Powers solar customers.


John Klein's picture
John Klein on Apr 15, 2019 12:41 pm GMT

When considering the motivations and how they differ between power producers and power consumers I beleive the only solution that will ultimately benefit the consumer is to go the extra mile and invest in storing the energy surplus from their system. A utility does not want to loose revenue period. They also have a fixed overhead that must be covered. If their revenues are decreased they will in turn run to the states they operate in and convince the governing body to let them raise rates. Also consider how oil prices and utility rates can be artificially nudged for the purpose of having a renewable project grounded if deemed destructive to the profit model.

David Magill's picture
David Magill on Apr 15, 2019 5:33 pm GMT

Current price on utility-grade battery power is about $250,000/MWh. Sun doesn't shine much in northern Idaho in December. If Idaho went 90% solar and wind, wouldn't be surprised to find you'd want a month's worth of storage. Do the math.

David Magill's picture
David Magill on Apr 15, 2019 3:34 pm GMT

Net metering is not sustainable if everyone or even 25% of users take it.

Average KWh/KW/day in central Idaho is about 3.5. Under the current net metering to zero out your bill, assume usage of 12,000 KWh/yr, you need about a 3500W of panels. About 15 hours/day you'll be counting on Idaho Power to provide power via their fossil fuel "backup" generators. With say 25% of customers on solar net metering (certainly by 100%), most of the solar energy generated will be wasted as most of the energy will be generated at overlapping times of day. Who will pay to run the generators?

Only makes sense that Idaho Power wants to change this system before it gets out of hand.


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