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Idaho Power Seeking to 'Single Out' Solar Customers

Solar energy powers 45,000 homes in Idaho, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. (Chris Kantos/Flickr)
Solar energy powers 45,000 homes in Idaho, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. (Chris Kantos/Flickr)
July 31, 2017

BOISE, Idaho -- Idaho Power is asking for permission from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to put customers who use solar energy into a different rate-paying class. Clean energy advocates say this is the first step toward charging solar customers more.

The company says net metering solar customers, who are compensated for any surplus power they generate and feed back into the grid, aren't paying their fair share of fixed costs. But Zack Waterman, director of the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club, said Idaho Power is singling out residents with solar panels.

"Solar has been growing fast in Idaho, but we think that the company's scrambling to adjust this fixed-cost issue is more of a solution in search of problem than one that is a significant problem right now,” Waterman said.

About 1,400 Idahoans are enrolled in the company's net-metering program. Waterman said these customers account for 0.02 percent of the company's entire peak demand.

Idaho Power wants to put solar users in their own class starting at the beginning of 2018.

Waterman said the cost shifting Idaho Power is concerned about can be found in other areas the company is not targeting. For instance, energy efficient homes pay the same fixed cost that homes that are much less efficient pay.

He said the move could hurt the state's solar industry.

"To throw solar customers in their own rate class and focus exclusively on this relatively super small amount of cost shifting within the customer class is a move to discourage solar,” Waterman said.

Solar has been on the rise in Idaho. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the sun powers 45,000 homes in Idaho, although not all of them are through rooftop panels.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID