Net metering survives in Idaho

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State regulators in Idaho shot down Idaho Power’s proposal to decrease the net metering rate for residential solar owners by 50% — with a unanimous vote.

The measure was defeated when the Idaho Public Service Commission (PSC) deemed that the evidence of necessity that Idaho Power presented was insufficient to demonstrate that the proposed settlement was fair, just, reasonable and in the public interest.

The evidence in question was based on the argument that the standard net metering rate has failed to properly recover the costs incurred to serve customers with on-site generation. This methodology is one that has been repeatedly disproven, including in an analysis by Brookings Institution in 2016, which found that, in most instances, net metering is in fact a net benefit to ratepayers.

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has found that there actually is a cost-shift when solar penetration levels rise to around 10% of total annual power on the system. Solar currently serves less than 3.6% of demand in Idaho Power’s energy mix.

The PSC also decided that the public lacked adequate notice that significant changes to net metering would be made through the settlement agreement.

From here on out, Idaho Power’s 4,000+ rooftop solar customers and those who have made binding commitments to install solar as of the date of the order (12/20) will continue to benefit from the net metering program’s one-to-one kilowatt hour credit for electricity the customer sends to the grid. Future customers will be subject to a new program that results from a cost-benefit study on customer-owned solar’s interaction with the grid.

“Net metering is a fair credit for the valuable investment in local clean energy that benefits us all,” said Briana Kobor of Vote Solar. “A fair study of costs and benefits will confirm that local, homegrown solar energy provides real benefits and deserves fair compensation.”

This is the second failed attempt by Idaho Power to rid itself of net metering this year alone. In April, the utility asked the Idaho Public Service Commission (IPUC) for permission to rid itself of Schedule 84, the net metering provision it created under orders from IPUC. Before that, in 2017, Idaho Power used the same cost-shift argument when presenting before regulators an application to get rid of net metering.

Idaho Power is not the first utility one would expect to attack renewables, though distributed solar has been known to be the enemy of other pro-renewable utilities. The company was the second utility in the United State to announce a goal to transition to 100% clean energy by 2045. However, there are ways to increase the penetration of ‘clean’ generation sources without those sources including residential solar.