Just as Idaho’s solar power battles are at a peak, leaders in the Idaho Legislature have quietly created a “Solar Energy Task Force” that is charged “To study the effects of solar energy” in Idaho.

The Legislature routinely creates interim committees and task forces to study myriad issues of interest to Idahoans. Convening these meetings between sessions can give lawmakers more time to conduct more in-depth research into these issues. Legislators broke tradition in not re-authorizing the Interim Energy, Environment and Technology Committee to delve into Idaho energy issues this summer, despite the big energy issues confronting the state, including pending EPA rules to clamp down on coal-plant greenhouse gas emissions.

But what just popped up on the Idaho Legislature’s website is a notice announcing the creation of the Solar Energy Task Force. It is chaired by Sen. Curt McKenzie and Rep. Jeff Thompson and its membership consists of House and Senate Republicans sitting on the Legislature’s influential budget and tax committees. As of Tuesday evening, there were no Democrats listed on the task force’s membership.

The Snake River Alliance was told by legislative staff that this Solar Energy Task Force was created by the Senate pro tem and House speaker’s offices and that it most likely had something to do with the very public and very contentious case before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in which groups like the Alliance have challenged efforts by Idaho’s three electric utilities to crack down on solar projects (see below).

While these kinds of task forces and committees are most often created through resolutions during the legislative session, it’s not unheard of for legislative leaders to create them on their own. In this case, that decision was made in the past several weeks – after the extraordinary post-adjournment legislative session that took place in May.

We won’t know for a while what will be addressed by this Solar Task Force, but we’re told it probably won’t be limited to the solar case awaiting a PUC order.

We’ll keep you posted on when this Solar Energy Task Force plans to meet and if its membership is amended to include Democrats or other Republicans.