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PUC Hearing on Plan to Limit PURPA Solar: 'Everybody Has a Plan Until You Get Punched in the Mouth'

by

ADAM ROSENLUND
  • Adam Rosenlund
Journalists and historians may look back on the evening of Wednesday, June 24 when writing about whether Idaho leans more toward greater dependence on renewable energy resources—particularly solar.

As the temperature inched closer to triple digits outside, dozens of citizens filled a public hearing room at the headquarters of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to tell commissioners that, in no uncertain terms, they wanted Idaho's largest utility to accept 20-year contracts from solar energy developers.

Not a single speaker rose to defend Idaho Power's desire to reduce 20-year contracts to two years, something that solar developers insist will stymie their industry.

Boise Weekly chronicled the dispute this march.

"We're not here to offer comments," said PUC Commissioner Paul Kjellander, setting the ground rules for what would be a two hour-plus hearing. "The commissioners serve as judges in this matter."

Kjellander and his fellow PUC commissioners, Kristine Raper and Mack Radford, will consider phone-in testimony from citizens across the state on the evening of Tuesday, June 30. Beginning Monday, June 29, the PUC will host technical hearings in which parties to the action will have an opportunity to present the pros and cons of the debate. That technical hearing could last up to three days.

"But you should know that the PUC could rule on this issue as early as late July," Kjellander told the gathering Wednesday evening. "So the affected parties should be on notice."

With that, public testimony began: some of it articulate, some of it rambling, some of it specific and some of it way off topic. Speakers included students, retirees, energy experts and nearly all of them customers of Idaho Power. 

Michael Heckler, a retired energy developer, told the PUC that he had worked in the industry "for the better part of a century." He woke up the gathering when he quoted a rather odd source: former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson.

"Before a fight, someone asked Tyson if he had a plan, and Tyson said, 'Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.' This two-year limitation of contracts is a punch in the mouth," Heckler said. "I urge you to shake this off. It limits competition and free-market regulation of prices."