We believe all Idahoans deserve a fair chance to control their energy bills and invest in clean energy. If you agree, speak up to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to maintain Idaho Power’s net metering program.

Net Metering Supports Idaho’s Growing Solar Sector

Net metering is a deal with your local utility that enables you to invest in rooftop solar power. In this program, you invest in a solar system to self-supply power to your home or business and avoid the energy portion of your utility bill. Any extra energy you make flows onto the grid and into your neighbor’s house. Because this extra solar allows the utility to avoid the cost of generating power itself, the company credits you the same amount that the neighbor pays the utility. If you are a solar owner, every month you pay the same fixed charge as everyone else, but your bill is reduced to reflect the utility power that you did not use because you produced your own energy. Those energy savings enable you to pay for your solar system. Put simply, net metering is the only program that enables an individual to own independent power instead of utility power.

Many homeowners and small businesses want to reduce their energy bills and support clean energy. In the past several years, they have invested millions of dollars into our local economy by installing rooftop solar systems through the net metering program. By meeting their own energy needs with clean power, these Idahoans are reducing our reliance on out-of-state fossil fuels and protecting our air quality.

Idaho Power Seeks to Chill Clean Energy Growth

Despite this good news, Idaho Power seeks to chill this growing industry by segregating customers with rooftop solar systems into a special customer class. After segregation, Idaho Power wants to study potential rate changes for these customers. In the past, the utility has proposed changes that drastically limit the ability of customers to reduce their utility bills by investing in solar. Idaho Power’s position in this case indicates that the utility will continue to do so.

This divide-and-conquer strategy is part of the utility industry playbook to slow the rapid growth in customer-owned solar nationwide. For years, utilities have tried to establish that customers with solar systems are shifting unfair costs onto everyone else. They rely on thinly supported allegations of cost shifts onto other customers and a narrow view of the benefit that solar brings to the electric system. Consistently, when regulators look hard at the numbers, they just don’t support utilities’ allegations.

The same is true here. The Idaho PUC staff considered all of Idaho Power’s documents and found "no evidence justifying a separate rate class for net metering customers." Instead, the staff reiterated that net metering "allows customers to offset their own consumption in the same way that customers have always been able to offset the electric consumption through reduced usage, energy efficiency, natural gas and wood space heat, and all other methods." Instead of segregation, PUC staff recommended that Idaho Power work with customers and others to develop a deeper understanding of the true costs and benefits of solar for Idaho. ICL has recommended the same.

ICL’s Take on Net Metering

I’ve participated at the PUC and deeply studied this and other issues related to your energy needs, effects to our climate and environment, and significance to your pocketbook. Like the PUC, we agree that Idaho Power has not demonstrated that segregating solar customers serves the public interest. Here are ICL’s recommendations for what the Public Utilities Commission should do:

  • Support the primary program enabling Idahoans’ desire to control energy bills while investing in clean energy.
  • Recognize that Idahoans have a right to self-supply energy without utility interference.
  • Continue the fair, simple program between Idaho Power and its customers who are meeting their own energy needs.
  • Because we cannot choose which utility we do business with, ensure that utility rates are fair, just and reasonable.

Stand Up for Idaho Solar

The Idaho PUC is taking public comment until March 9 before the agency decides on Idaho Power’s solar segregation request. Whether you are a solar owner today or ever wish to be, now is the time to speak up to maintain the fair, simple-to-understand net metering program.

You can attend one of two public hearings in Idaho Power’s service territory

  • BoiseMarch 1, 7 pm, in the PUC Hearing Room, 472 W Washington
  • PocatelloMarch 5, 7 pm, in the City Council Chambers, 911 N 7th Ave