Idaho PUC issues ruling in net billing case

Rocky Mountain Power continues to support the desire of its customers for a sustainable environment for future generations, bringing more low-cost renewable energy to its customers in Idaho than ever before. Part of this objective is to establish a sustainable and fair program for customers who want to generate some of their own power, while keeping their connection to Rocky Mountain Power’s system.

After testimony and public comment since June 2019, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved the company’s proposal to close the current net metering program (Schedule 135) to new applicants effective Oct. 2, 2020, and open a new net billing program (Schedule 136) for Idaho customers who choose to generate their own electricity while continuing to rely on Rocky Mountain Power’s network. The change is effective Nov. 1, 2020.

The commission also ruled that existing customers on Schedule 135, Net Metering Service, will remain on the schedule for 25 years, before transferring to the new program structure, Schedule 136, Net Billing Service. Under Schedule 136 new self-generating customers would continue to offset some or all of their energy usage while receiving a billing credit for the excess energy they export to the utility’s system. This export credit is subject to change and will be updated routinely to more accurately reflect the value of the energy exported. The value of the export credit and how often it is updated will be determined in a study ordered by the commission.

Initially, the export credit for Schedule 136 will be the same as Schedule 135 for any energy exported to the utility grid. Both will receive a bill credit equal to their retail energy charges until the commission issues a final ruling on the value of the Export Credit. Although the credit for Schedule 136 is currently the same as for Schedule 135, customers who decide to enroll in Schedule 136 should know that export credit and other program provisions are subject to change.

Other specifics from the commission’s order include:

  • The “grandfather” status of customers who remain on Schedule 135 for 25 years continues with the meter site, not the customer.
  • If a Schedule 135 system is offline for more than six months, or is moved to another site, the grandfathered status of the system is forfeited.
  • The Schedule 135 customer may increase the capacity of the grandfathered system by no more than 10 percent of the originally installed nameplate capacity, or 1 kilowatt, whichever is greater.
  • The commission proposed that an existing customer be defined as a customer who has:
    • Successfully interconnected an on-site generation system as of the date of the order of adoption on October 2, 2020 or,
    • Applied to the company for interconnection of an on-site generation system as of the date of the adopting order on October 2, 2020 and who successfully interconnects their system within one year of the date of their application.
  • Schedule 136 includes a non-refundable fee of $85 to be submitted with the customer application. This fee reflects the administrative cost associated with processing and approving applications for interconnection.
  • To encourage customers on Schedule 136 to install generation systems that are appropriately sized for their annual energy use, the company has proposed that unused export credits expire after one year. The company proposes that export credits may be rolled over until March of each year for most customers; and until October for irrigation customers. The value of any expiring credits would be eligible to qualifying non-profit organizations in the company’s service territory. Whether export credits expire will also be determined by the commission.

In its order, the commission noted it has long identified a potential cost shift from customer generators to non-participants under the program structure of Schedule 135. Recent rapid growth in the on-site generation industry might exacerbate these cost shifts if the program structure is not modernized, the commission said.

When this case began in 2019, Rocky Mountain Power met with commission staff and other parties to this case and agreed to a two-phase approach to determine a fair Export Credit Rate. This consists of a study design phase and a study review phase, with opportunities for public input during both phases. With the benefit of public comment to date, as well as input from the company and Idaho utility regulators, the commission issued an order on the study design phase outlining the scope of issues to be evaluated in the study review phase and submitted to the commission, which will then establish the procedure and a schedule to determine the export credit, how often that credit is updated, and how long unused credits will remain on customer accounts.