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Idaho Power proposing new customer rate class

Idaho utility regulators are considering an Idaho Power Company (IPC) proposal to reclassify customers who generate their own electricity.

If approved, it would create new customer classes for residential and small general service customers who generate their own electricity, mostly through rooftop solar.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) will host a public hearing in Pocatello Monday, March 5 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Pocatello City Council chambers at 911 N. 7th Ave.

The Pocatello hearing will not include any presentation by the company or IPUC staff. It is intended to take comments from Idaho Power customers or interested parties only.

According to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, the IPC proposal would not call for immediate changes in rates or charges for any customers. The company’s proposal calls for the commission to initiate a generic docket at the conclusion of the case in order to establish a compensation structure for net metering that reflects the costs and benefits that on-site generation bring to Idaho Power’s distribution system.

Customers with on-site generation are referred to as net metering customers. That’s because their consumption of electricity can be offset or eliminated by sending energy onto the utility’s distribution system. They are charged for the “net” amount of energy they use each month.

Right now, the credit is at the full retail rate, which incorporates the cost of maintaining the company’s distribution system of poles, transformers, and substations, etc. rather than at a lower rate that reflects customer-owned energy production.

The utility contends that shifts the financial burden of maintaining the distribution system onto its standard electric customers. Idaho Power calls that a “wealth transfer from lower-income customers to higher-income customers.”

The utility says new metering technology now allows precise measurement of electricity use. At the same time, the cost of solar panels has plummeted.

In 2012, the company had 353 net metering customers. In June 2017 Idaho Power reported 1,468 active and pending customers. It projects that number to grow to between 6,171 and 7,032 by 2021.

“The most appropriate time for the Commission to begin to address cost shifting caused by the combination of net metering and current rate design is now, before (on-site generation) penetration reaches higher levels,” the utility said in its application.

Interested parties who would like to provide input in the case but are unable to attend the hearings may submit comments until the conclusion of a technical hearing scheduled for March 8. To comment, visit here.

Under the “Consumers” heading, click on “Case Comment Form,” and include the case number, IPC-E-17-13.

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