Solar energy companies upset over Idaho Power proposal

February 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

BOISE — Alternative energy companies are at odds with Idaho Power over a proposed change in fees.

Solar Power companies say Idaho Power is running them out of business, but Idaho Power says they’re looking out for the hundreds of thousands of traditional customers.

Idaho Power tells us they have about 400,000 residential customers.  They say that includes about 350 who use alternative energy from solar panels and wind power.

Idaho Power says it’s paying too much for that energy generated by those customers, so they want to adjust the charges.

But, solar panel companies say the higher fees will mean alternative energy simply won’t be cost-effective for many, and could put small businesses out of business.

Matthew Dunay’s small business is trying to spread alternative energy by installing solar panels on homes throughout the state.

But he says Idaho’s Power plan could quickly change that progress.

“If it does pass, will set the renewable energy industry in the state of Idaho back five years,” said Matthew Dunay, vice president of Altenergy.

Dunay says he is already losing customers who are unsure of exactly how much a solar panel system would cost them if the proposed fees are adopted.

“Solar energy customers should be incentified (sic) for putting power back on to the grid, not penalized by having to pay more every month,” said Dunay.

Idaho Power’s proposal includes an increase of about $15 a month for the service fee to those who use alternative power, called net metered customers.

Right now, that fee is $5, but the proposal would bump it up to $20.92.

The plan also decreases the energy charge to those customers.

It also adds a third demand charge.

Idaho Power says this isn’t about their profit, but about making the system fair for everyone.

“This is a revenue neutral initiative for Idaho Power, this is really looking at coming up with a better pricing design for our customers,” said Tim Tatum, Idaho Power’s manager of Cost of Service.

Tatum tells us right now customers generating energy through solar panels are getting paid too much for that electricity.

He says it’s the same traditional rate, which includes transmission and distribution. Those are services the customers are not providing, so their rate should be adjusted. He says the change would affect each solar panel customers’ bill differently.

“For some customers there will be no impact, for some there will be a positive impact in terms of a bill reduction, and for some customers it will be an increase,” said Tatum.

The Public Utility Commission will ultimately decide whether the proposal will be passed.

They tell us they are looking to do what’s in the best interest of all customers.

A spokesperson said they have gotten a lot of public feedback on this issue.

Idaho Power hopes to have a decision by July first.

If the proposal passes, the news rates would go into effect on October first.

The plan also includes a change in the credit that alternative energy customers can receive, and an increase in the availability of the service.

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