Idaho Power wants to make a dramatic change to its net metering service, altering how the utility manages and compensates customers who install solar panels.
Reserved for home and business owners who have installed on-site power generation (primarily solar panels), the service allows participants to take advantage of a bi-directional service. In other words, customers enrolled in net metering enjoy the benefit of reduced reliance on the power grid and get money back for surplus energy they return to the grid through their own generation.
To date, the number of Idaho Power customers who use net metering has been modest—1,468 as of June 30, 2017. Company officials, however, are projecting the number could swell to as many as 7,000 customers by 2021.
"The most appropriate time for the [Idaho Public Utilities] Commission to begin to address cost shifting caused by the combination of net metering and current rate design is now," wrote Idaho Power attorney Lisa Nordstrom to the PUC.
Nordstrom's letter was part of a 137-page filing asking the commission to create a new class for net metering customers, effective in 2018. Utility officials argue the benefits to net metering customers are responsible for "unfair cost shifting" to the detriment of customers who haven't installed their own on-site generation.
The Idaho Sierra Club chapter wasted no time pushing back, saying Idaho Power's proposal "unfairly singles out solar customers."
"If [Idaho Power] wants to look at cost shifting, they need to take a much broader look at the issue rather than just focus on the tiny changes that net meterers may be making," said Zack Waterman, Director of the Idaho Sierra Club. "Before we single out solar customers and cast uncertainty into the marketplace it's in everyone's interest to slow down."
The public will have plenty to say as well, including online comments accepted at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission website (reference: IPC-E-17-13).