Letters from the West

Idaho PUC denies Idaho Power solar moratorium

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission ruled today that Idaho Power’s flood of solar developer proposals, is not an “imminent crisis,” caused by the utility's lack of a completed study of the costs to its customers of integrating the intermittent solar power into its grid.

It denied Idaho Power’s request to temporarily suspend its obligation under federal law to sign new contracts to buy the power because the so-called crisis “is of the company’s own making.”

Idaho Power is required under the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act. PURPA requires it to purchase power from qualifying small-power producers at rates negotiated between the parties using a formula approved by the state commission.

Idaho Power sought a temporary suspension from its PURPA obligation because it claimed that “dozens of solar projects” are either already under contract or attempting to obligate Idaho Power to buy up to 500 megawatts of electric capacity. The utility said it expected to complete a solar integration cost study in mid-June.

This doen’t affect rooftop solar net metering customers only larger solar developers planning 10 to 20 megawatt plants.

The commission said suspending Idaho Power’s PURPA obligation “is not the appropriate remedy” to address the “run on the bank,” situation. Instead Idaho Power and solar developers should include consideration of a solar integration charge when they negotiate their contracts, including a possible placeholder until the study is done. Wind developers pay $6.50 per megawatt in integration charges.