Idaho Public Utilities Commission said it will not reverse its decision regarding an energy storage company that is seeking 20-year contracts for storage projects under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978.
Franklin Energy was seeking PURPA contracts for four storage facilities sited in Twin Falls County that would be charged by solar power and have an average capacity of 2.5 MW.
- The PUC said the state’s methodology under PURPA grants only two year contracts for intermittent resources.
PURPA remains in force only in states that cannot show that they have a viable alternative market for qualifying energy projects. In states such as Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, that has resulted in heated battles over the federal law.
Many of those battles have arisen as renewable energy developers in those states sought to secure contracts under PURPA, often at lucrative avoided cost rates set by the states when prevailing power prices were higher. PURPA gave states wide latitude in setting PURPA rates. The case in Idaho is one of the few PURPA cases involving an energy storage facility.
In Idaho, the PUC in 2015 granted a request by the state’s major utilities and shortened the tenor of renewable energy power purchase agreements under PURPA to two years from 20 years. Franklin Energy asked Idaho Power for a 20-year contract, but the utility responded with an offer of a two year contract.
The PUC had to look back to 1990 for precedent, citing a case involving a Luz storage project in which FERC ruled that the primary source of a storage facility’s electric power had to be taken into consideration.
Since Franklin’s primary source would be solar power, the PUC ruled it should receive the same two-year contract that a solar farm would receive. Franklin can appeal the PUC’s decision to the Idaho Supreme Court or to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.