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Idaho Power Tells PUC It May Want to Revisit Rooftop Solar Rules

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Just as clean energy advocates roll out our campaign to make it easier to install solar panels on Idaho rooftops, Idaho Power has advised state regulators it plans to hold some “stakeholder workshops” to try to find out if enough solar is enough.

Idaho Power submitted a “compliance filing” in its notable 2012 solar power “net metering” case in which the Public Utilities Commission directed Idaho Power to provide annual reports on how things are going with the level of customer interest in hooking up solar installations to the company’s grid. The last filing, on April 29, included the advisory that, “Idaho Power plans to hold customer and stakeholder workshop(s) during 2016 to share the results of this report and solicit feedback on a potential rate design proposal for future net metering customers that the Company may consider filing with the Commission…”

Context: The infamous multi-utility “solar net metering” case of 2012, spearheaded by Idaho Power and soon joined by the other two big electric companies, saw a huge divide between the state’s electric utilities and those customers wanting to save money and clean up their energy footprints by installing solar panels on their roofs. In the end, the PUC sided mostly with utility customers and re-set electricity rates that would have penalized electricity customers from going solar. But the issue remains far from settled. Utilities still have legitimate concerns about how they and their customers will continue to pay “fixed costs” for things like electricity grid infrastructure if more customers defect and go on their own. So with its filing, which comes with a wealth of information about how many customers are lining up to plug their rooftops into Idaho Power’s grid, the company makes its case for a more detailed review by the PUC and all customers of how the solar net metering program is working.

Given the new realities of solar power’s rise as a dominant electricity resource in Idaho, it’s probably a discussion worth having. Expect the PUC to schedule some workshops or other meetings sometime later this summer or fall to see how we’re doing with rooftop solar in Idaho.

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