As energy consumers, it is critical that each of us holds the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) accountable to Idaho’s public interest in clean, reliable, and affordable energy. Here’s how you can advocate for the clean energy we need to address climate change and protect our health.
First, Your Audience-the PUC
The Idaho PUC is made up of three commissioners chosen by the governor. They serve 6-year terms. Currently, two of the commissioners are Republicans and one is a Democrat because by law no more than two commissioners may be of the same political party. These commissioners must protect utility customers from unreasonable, unfair, and discriminatory utility rates.
Part of the commission’s responsibilities include facilitating hearings and requesting public comments regarding electric rate increases or new energy policies. Attending hearings and writing comments are ways you can weigh in on proposals-proposals that could, for example, unfairly discriminate customers who generate solar energy, or unreasonably commit Idahoans to uneconomic coal energy.
You have the opportunity to weigh in right now on two cases that will impact southern and northern Idaho.
Idaho Power’s Net Metering Proposal
Idaho Power has proposed to dramatically alter how it treats customers who generate their own electricity from sources like rooftop solar panels. This proposal would punish our growing solar economy, slowing job growth and the growth of solar-generated energy in Idaho. What’s worse is that Idaho Power’s proposal would do all this by increasing costs only on Idahoans producing clean energy and no one else. The PUC commissioners denied a similar proposal from Idaho Power in 2013 partly because the PUC believed it was discriminatory. The commissioners should not be fooled this time either.
However, utility industry lobbyists are pressuring legislatures and utility commissions around the country to approve the sort of proposal Idaho Power has submitted. This is why it’s imperative that you send comments to our PUC and show up to the public hearing that will be scheduled in the coming weeks. Share your concerns with the PUC now.
Avista’s Plan for Colstrip
Avista’s plan to burn coal for the next 20 years is also before the PUC. Climate change alone makes Avista’s long-range plan simply irresponsible. But burning coal at the increasingly inefficient and expensive Colstrip coal plant places Idaho families and businesses at financial risk.
Because cleaner, less expensive energy is available, other utilities are making plans to end their use of the Colstrip plant. Puget Sound Energy has proposed taking steps to financially prepare itself and its customers for an end to the useful life of Colstrip by 2027.
Avista is not taking these steps, which puts our pocket books at risk for future rate hikes. Right now, Avista splits the cost of operating the Colstrip plant with Puget Sound Energy and four other companies. If Puget Sound Energy or other cooperating companies end their use of coal, that would require Avista (and its customers) to pay more to produce energy from Colstrip.
Our PUC commissioners need to understand that Avista’s failure to plan for scenarios like this is not financially responsible, and that it is unfair and unreasonable to saddle electric customers with that kind of risk. Submit your comments to the PUC now.