Hundreds Testified for Solar Power.  Alliance members had to crowd in to support net metering, rooftop solar and distributed energy. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission held hearings on a proposal to change rate structures for people with rooftop solar energy, wind turbines or micro-hydro. The Alliance intervened against the Idaho Power proposal.

Hundreds of people attended the hearings and over 500 people submitted written testimony. Almost all of the public testimony was against the proposal and in support of the current net metering program. Many citizens expressed that they were glad for the Alliance’s Solarize the Valley program and urged Idaho Power to make solar energy even more affordable.Pubic commenters also asked the Commission to do more, strengthen their oversight role and encourage solar energy.

“Idaho Power should encourage, not discourage solar and distributed energy.” — Paula Jull, Pocatello.

“These rate payers care about the future of our earth’s resources. Why is it necessary for Idaho Power to hold them hostage?” — Louis Dyson, Meridian.

“It is time for you to listen to and serve your communities and not the utilities and other special interests” — Benjamin Nelson, Boise

“The future of our planet depends on you,” — Alice Anderson, Boise

 Ten organizations including the Snake River Alliance intervened in the case before the commission. Attorney John Hammond of Boise represented the Alliance and the Northwest Energy Coalition in this proceeding. We provided an expert witness in the case, Ms. Amanda Levin, an energy policy analyst with the NRDC. Ms. Levin testified that Idaho Power hasn’t conducted studies to support its proposal. Levin testified that Idaho Power is taking a different path than most utilities in other states. “No utility has filed for a separate rate class without either completing a valuation of solar or cost of service study beforehand or as part of the application, ” according to Levin.

 “The Company should collect and provide data… that shows the cost to serve these customers compared to other residential customers.” Amanda Levin, Expert Witness for the Snake River Alliance.

 As we go to press, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission has not ruled on the future of net metering. If the commission goes with the overwhelming testimony in support of clean energy, it will send the company back to the drawing board to study the costs and benefits of solar. If the Commission rules for Idaho Power, a new class for net metering customers will be set up in the near future but rates and charges will not change right away. If the Commission does agree to set up a new rate class, it still would be months or years before they approve changes to the actual rates.

Executive Director’s Corner – Solar Power for Cars

Like me, you probably saw the live-streaming view from Elon Musk’s red sports car as it was zooming through space. The image sticks in my mind because it sums up a central irony in our day and age. We like our creature comforts but don’t know where we are going with them. We know we are pushing the limits of our planet to provide for our consumption, but we humans really like our stuff. I’m not sure I can give it all up – so how can I power my cell phones, my home, and my vehicle with clean energy? Exactly where should we put our own money and resources? Actually, the way forward is pretty simple. It is time to “solarize” our electric grid and electrify our cars.

According to a study done by NRDC and the Electric Power Research Institute, these two steps taken together will improve our health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70% by 2050 (EPRI, NRDC 2015). That is why the Alliance is kicking off our third year of the successful Solarize the Valley program to help homeowners install rooftop solar in Idaho and increase the amount of renewable energy on our grid.

Personally, I haven’t yet invested in a big solar array on my roof. But as a green consumer, I’ve taken my first step by buying a Chevy Volt. It is an economical car – a hybrid that will be pretty darn close to 100% electric the way I expect to use it. I’m so excited to continue our work with solar business partners like AltEnergy. And in the next year the Alliance will also promote wider adoption of electric cars in Idaho’s challenging climate and terrain.

We don’t want dangerous and expensive nuclear energy like the UAMPS project. Instead, lets reflect on why sending a Tesla into space is exciting – and take action so that solar “star power” becomes our future.