Solar Lobby Fighting To Get Its Subsidies Back

Jason Hopkins | Energy Investigator

A solar lobbying group has successfully petitioned state regulators to reconsider a decision that scaled back subsidies given to solar panel users.

In a win for the solar lobby, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission has agreed to reassess a decision it previously made concerning net metering. The Commission had ruled in favor of Idaho Power in May and called for the creation of a new class for net metering customers who are enrolled in the utility’s net metering program. Idaho Power, a major electricity provider, had argued that the program allowed solar panel owners to avoid paying their “fair share” of energy rates.

Similar to many other states, Idaho’s net metering program allows solar panel owners to “sell” excess energy their panels produce and send back to the grid. However, this process has been controversial as it allows panel owners to sell their power at a retail rate, an amount over its worth. Net metering opponents have long argued that the system operates as a subsidy program for solar panel owners. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission agreed in May with Idaho Power that the system unfairly shifted costs to non-net metering customers.

However, Vote Solar — an organization that lobbies in state capitals around the country for solar interests — successfully filed a petition requesting the three-member commission reconsider its decision.

“We are particularly interested in information about export limiting devices, effects of battery storage, additional information on the meaning and repercussions of ‘in parallel’ connection, and the masking of usage created by hourly analysis of customer and company energy exchanges,” the Commission stated. (RELATED: New Hampshire’s Governor Saved Residents Millions By Vetoing Solar Subsidies)

The battle in Idaho comes as numerous states have considered changes to their net metering programs. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bill in June that would raised the state’s net metering caps, arguing the move saved his constituents millions in subsidies. The Vermont Public Utility Commission, worried that the system was unfair to non-net metering customers, opted in May to reduce compensation given to solar panel owners.

Due to Idaho Code, the commission has a limited time to reconsider its original decision. After an order on reconsideration is given, the decision may be appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court.

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