- Idaho Power wants to create a new customer class for rooftop solar customers and asked the state Public Utilities Commission to open a generic docket in order to craft a new compensation structure for net metering, a popular compensation mechanism that credits rooftop solar owners for excess energy sent to the grid.
- The utility's application requests a compensation scheme that reflects distributed generation's costs and benefits to the local grid; however, Idaho Power did not propose new rates.
- The number of net metering customers on Idaho Power's system is small but rising. The utility has gone from about 350 net metering customers in 2012, to almost 1,500 today, and expects more than 6,000 within the next three years.
Idaho regulators are taking comment on the utility's proposal, and have scheduled two public hearings. One was held this week in Boise, and the second will be next week in Pocatello, Idaho. The utility has previously tried to raise rates for rooftop solar customers, but was rejected by the PUC.
If approved this time around, Idaho Power’s proposal would require new net metering customers to install smart inverters "once an industry standard is established," according to the PUC, which the utility says will help address concerns regarding system stability and reliability.
The utility has historically had relatively few residential distributed generation customers, but expects a significant ramp up as rooftop solar comes down in price and becomes more popular. Across the nation, utilities have dealt with the need to adjust their rates and tariffs as more distributed generation is connected to the distribution grid.
As of June 2017, Idaho Power reported 1,468 active and pending net metering customers with total nameplate capacity of 11 MW. By 2021, the utility expects the number of net metering customers to grow to between 6,171 and 7,032.
“The most appropriate time for the Commission to begin to address cost shifting caused by the combination of net metering and current rate design is now, before (on-site generation) penetration reaches higher levels,” according to Idaho Power's application. By making changes to the program now rather than down the line, the utility says customers will be ensure “fair-priced, scalable and sustainable” service.
The PUC will take written comments until the conclusion of a technical hearing scheduled for March 8.