The Snake River Alliance took action today to protect the future of rooftop solar in Idaho. The Alliance intervened in an Idaho Power request to change the net metering program for people who generate green energy at home. Although this first proposal would not change rates (it would just establish a new customer class) we expect that much more is at stake.
Solar is good for Idaho’s electric grid. It generates power where we need it and when we need it the most. It fits our communities in a way carbon-spewing gas turbines and coal plants never will. It is the way of the future. For the first time ever, in March 2017, solar and wind provided a monthly average of 10% of America’s energy.
An estimated 1,500 Idaho Power customers use the net metering program to manage power generated by their own solar panels or wind generators. These customers get energy credits to use later but still pay monthly fees to be connected to the grid. The company eventually wants to increase the fees and change the terms and conditions of those credits.
The company is following a well-used industry play book chipping away at net metering programs state by state. This has cast a shadow on the solar industry in Arizona and Nevada, at least temporarily. The fight is now in Utah as well. Just last week, Utah took action to decrease the value of solar power, but grandfathered all existing customers until 2026.
Idaho’s net metering program is not expected to change right away. Just in the last 18 months, the Alliance’s Solarize the Valley campaign has helped 75 more families install rooftop solar panels and many more will be hooked up by the end of the year. Last year, the Solarize the Valley program added $1 million to our local economy.
We are pleased to be intervening before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission in partnership with the Northwest Energy Coalition. The coalition brings more valuable technical expertise to our fight as we work alongside other groups such as the Idaho Conservation League, the Idaho Clean Energy Association, the Sierra Club and Vote Solar.
The Alliance is standing up for your right to generate green energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. To us, it is a freedom thing.
In the next decade, thousands more Idahoans will choose to install solar panels or wind generators of their own free will. These people should not have to pay extra fees and discriminatory rates just because they generate some of their own power. This should be facilitated by our energy utilities – not penalized.
So why do utility companies oppose solar? Because regulators haven’t given them a way to make money off of it. If rate structures were changed to reward Idaho Power for the number of happy customers served it would improve the company’s bottom line
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission needs to hear from you regarding the future of net metering. No date has been set yet for public hearings. In the meantime, you can be heard online at http://www.puc.idaho.gov/forms/casecomment.aspx
Points to make:
- Make your comments in reference to case IPC-E_17-13.
- Idaho Power deserves a fair rate for providing grid services to all customers, solar customers should not be singled out.
- The 2016 Solarize the Valley campaign generated over $1 million dollars and supports local green jobs.
- We need a full study of the costs and benefits here in Idaho, before changing our effective net metering program.
For more information refer to IPC-E-17-13 – IDAHO POWER–NEW SCHEDULES FOR CUSTOMERS WITH ON-SITE GENERATION