Idaho regulators rule that net metering rates belong to the system, not the customer

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While new residential solar customers of Idaho Power are still in limbo awaiting whatever policy will replace net metering, a substantial decision has been reached regarding existing net-metered projects.

The Idaho Public Service Commission (PSC) has amended an earlier ruling from its December 2019 decision to deny Idaho Power’s net metering replacement rates, deeming that the “grandfathered” net-metering rate given to a system installed before the date of that decision is applied to the installation and not the customer.

Specifically, the decision states, “The Commission will apply grandfathered status to the system site as opposed to the customer. The Commission also clarifies that a customer who owns a grandfathered system can add another system on their property, with the new system qualifying for the net-metering program in place at that time, without jeopardizing the original system’s grandfathered status.”

It is unclear exactly how many customers this amendment will affect, but it is meaningful — as it makes the legacy rate untouchable on those systems until Dec. 20, 2045.

Just as impactful, the PUC also denies the petitions for reconsideration made by Idaho Conservation League, Vote Solar, Idaho Clean Energy Association and others. This petition requested that the PSC extend the legacy rate treatment to any new customers with a system installed before the new rates are instituted. So, as it stands, any Idaho power customer that wants to install rooftop solar is still waiting in limbo for the new rates, with no reason to install until that decision is reached.

Proponents of rooftop solar in Idaho claim that the market uncertainty created by this period of compensation limbo could cause negative effects on the state’s residential solar industry, even after the new rates are instituted.

“Unfortunately, Idaho families and businesses that choose to go solar today will not have clarity on how or if they will be compensated for excess energy they provide to the grid,” said Briana Kobor of Vote Solar. “Effectively, this means that customers do not have a choice. Without clear signals from the Commission they are left in a state of limbo.”

As for the compensation system that will replace net metering, the case is still proceeding under the PUC’s order requiring a study to be completed about the the net benefits and shortcomings of residential solar in the state.