- The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved new integration rates for PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power, significantly lowering the rate charged to integrate wind energy into the utility's system.
- Regulators approved a wind integration rate of $0.57/MWh, much lower than the previous $3.06/MWh. The PUC also set the solar integration rate at $0.60/MWh.
- The rates apply to small renewable facilities qualifying for 20-year contracts under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). Idaho PUC trimmed PURPA contracts to two years in 2015 for projects larger than 100 KW after a push by state utilities.
It has been almost a decade since the PURPA integration rates were set, and the renewables market has changed significantly. In 2015, utilities scored a victory when the PUC slashed 20-year PURPA contract lengths to a mere two years. However, these contracts are aimed at qualifying facilities larger than 100 kW, because they are negotiated with the utility based on the utility's Integrated Resource Planning process. Projects under 100 kW qualify for published-rate contracts and are not subject to the shorter contract lengths.
Now Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp, proposed to cut integration rates for wind and solar projects under 100 kW qualifying for PURPA contracts to reflect its avoided-cost rates.
In its proposal, RMP said that solar generation on its system had been "insignificant" in the past, but is expected to top 1,000 MW by the end of this year. Wind integration costs have fallen precipitously since the rate was set in 2018.
Idaho renewable energy facilities smaller than 100 KW are eligible for 20-year contracts at the published rate set by the Public Utilities Commission, which is set to reflect utilities' avoided costs. The integration rate for solar and wind facilities under PURPA contracts are then deducted from the avoided-cost rate paid by the utility.
PURPA rates and contract lengths have come under criticism from utilities as renewable energy costs have fallen. PacifiCorp last year proposed shorter contract lengths in for PURPA qualifying facilities in Wyoming. The Public Utilities Commission, however, told the utility to collaborate with stakeholders on a solution. And RMP sought to trim PURPA contract lengths in Utah; however, regulators only cut the length to 15 years.