Letters From the West

Idaho Power witness says no operational data to support solar cap

Matt Larkin, a regulatory analyst for Idaho Power testifies at a hearing on net metering before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

Matt Larkin, a regulatory analyst for Idaho Power testifies at a hearing on net metering before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

The cap Idaho Power proposed for rooftop solar customers who would tie onto its grid has no operational basis, Matt Larkin its chief witness testified in a hearing Tuesday.

Larkin, a regulatory analyst for the utility, said the cap, doubling net metering megawatts at 5.8 megawatts, was set by the company’s senior managers.

At the current average size of rooftop solar systems the company would reach that limit at less than 400 additional systems. Currently 386 people are net metering customers.

Several attorneys cross examined Larkin focusing on the need for any cap. Larkin called it a “reasonable check in point,” but he acknowledged, “Nothing prevents a filing if the company feels it is necessary.”

The number of new net metering customers since its November 2012 filing of 21, is about the same as past years at 25, Larkin testified.

PUC Commissioner Mack Redford asked Larkin: “If you accept energy from net metering customers isn’t there a value for that energy?”

Larkin said “I wouldn’t say it it doesn’t have value,” but he said customer who want to sell solar power have other avenues.

PUC chair Marsha Smith sought to get to the heart of the matter from Idaho Power’s view.

“Is this really about recovering lost revenue or is this about something else,” Smith said.

Larkin said no, it was really about preventing cost shifting among different customers.

Idaho Conservation League witness R. Thomas Beach of Cross Border consulting said the net metering issue is about freedom.

 

 

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West