Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Is the Meter Running Out for Solar Power in Idaho? Part 2

Is the meter running out for solar power in Idaho? Sustainable Idaho continues its investigation
of solar power in Idaho. Co-hosts Scott and Rachel speak to the Citizens Climate Lobby and
Idaho Power to get to the bottom of what’s been happening with solar power and net-metering.

By Scott Greeves and Rachel McGovern

Last week on Sustainable Idaho we delved into the topic of solar power. We discussed the changes that Idaho Power is proposing to its net-metering program, which is system through which Idaho Power gives credit for any excess energy that a costumer produces. This can be exchanged a later time for electricity.

Last week, we found out that Idaho Power has filed an application to the Public Utilities
Commission, proposing to modify Schedule 84. We talked with Lisa Young, who is the director
of the Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club, and discovered that this modification may remove the
economic incentive for Idaho farmers to invest in solar systems.

This is a problem for all of us in Idaho. Agriculture is a crucial part of Idaho’s economy and
culture, we should be encouraging energy independence and resilience, not putting up barriers to
effective renewable energy alternatives.

We also spoke to an experienced Idaho Farmer, John O’Connor. He told us that due to the
changing climate and evolving agricultural demands, we need to adapt and become sustainable to
avoid the real cost. The real cost being the potentially catastrophic consequences of a climate
crisis, such as increasing severity and intensity of extreme weather events, including droughts,
floods, storms, and temperature change.

Last week, we heard that the jury is still out on the Public Utilities Commission’s decision on
Idaho Power’s net metering modification. There are many environmental and societal benefits of
solar, that can be overlooked when considering its true value. Solar power represents more than
just an energy source, it shows that there is an increasing demand for sustainable and affordable
energy generation. However, level of outcry from the public and stakeholders, about the
proposed changes to net metering, demonstrates that our community is demanding a more
sustainable future.

This week on sustainable Idaho, we speak to Kayti Didrickson, a longtime member of the
farming community and representative of the Boise Citizens Climate Lobby, to understand the
relationship between Idaho Power and farmers. And we get the chance to sit down with Idaho
Power and find out their vision for solar in Idaho.

We asked Kayti Didrickson about the importance of farmers being involved in
considerations and conversations around climate change.

“We need to reimagine the green revolution. There are several of us (at the Boise Citizens
Climate Lobby) who are interested in how to get agriculture on the radar for climate change. We
need to provide better incentives for carbon sequestration and renewable energy. We need more
incentives for farmers to make these changes, either through legislation or better farm bill

To some of us, the idea of solar, on farms, in Idaho may seem unusual. But Kayti doesn’t think
this is the case.

“Well, farmers have changed, there are less and less farms, the farms are larger and larger and
farmers themselves are getting older – and the farmers kids, who are millennials, are taking

Having a younger demographic involved in farming could be crucial. A recent study by the
Citizens Climate Lobby, found that 70% of young conservatives are concerned with Climate
Change. In talking with John O’ Connor (last week) and Kayti Didrickson, it’s clear that Idaho’s
farming landscape is changing. Solar energy has the potential to ensure that this change is
positive, by providing affordable and clean energy. But, as Kayti mentioned, incentives are
crucial in promoting and maintaining the financial viability of sustainable farming.

One of these incentives is Idaho Power’s net meter program. But, to find out more about the
future of net metering and sustainable energy generation, we spoke to Theresa Drake, a
representative for Idaho Power.

“We do see Solar fitting in very nicely to our plans to exit the coal that we use and continue on a
path towards clean energy. It is a viable resource and fits nicely with our portfolio but we are
really concerned with the subsidy for customer generation – we need to make sure it is not
burdening those that are not participating from a cost perspective.”

Basically, Idaho Power is suggesting that solar energy projects may increase everybody’s energy
cost. But this is the kicker. Idaho Power does not know for sure if solar projects are a financial
liability. In fact, they have been asked by the public utilities commission to conduct a study into
the true value of customer produced solar. So, we asked Idaho Power when is this study going to
be completed?

“It could be as early as the first half of the year next year, in compliance with the order from the
commission. With different stakeholders participating, we need to assess the costs and benefits
of on-site generation to the company system”.

But at the crux of this issue, Idaho Power is proposing to change its net metering program on
December 1 st . This change would make future investments in solar uncertain and possibly less
financially secure, by suggesting that changes to the credit system may be on the horizon.
Advocates for solar energy, such as the Sierra club, that we heard from last week, believe that
Idaho Power should move the December 1 st deadline till after the report is published. It’s argued
that this change is being proposed without the evidence that solar is negatively impacting energy
costs. However, it is important to note that Idaho Power has said that it is committed to 100%
clean energy by 2045

“Solar is a really important part of Idaho Power being able to achieve it’s 100% clean energy
goal by 2045. Idaho Power is the only Public Utilities Company (in the USA), that has
voluntarily set a goal for clean energy on itself. We are really proud of that and serious about it.
But we want to consider solar carefully to make sure customers aren’t overburdened with the
cost of clean energy.”

Idaho Power’s goal of producing 100% renewable energy by 2045 is both an admirable but
daunting task. To meet this goal, Idaho Power needs to ramp up its investments or incentives for
renewable energy generation. For instance, farms and business can only install uptown 100
kilowatts of solar per meter. However, many farmers feel this is an arbitrary cap, and they need
to produce more power to meet their energy requirements. We asked Idaho power about the 100-
kilowatt cap.

“The cap was established a long time ago when Idaho Power set forth to create this service
offering for commercial, industrial and irrigation customers, that chose to self-generate. The cap
was set by the public utilities commission to help distinguish between small- and large-scale
projects. The two types of projects are under different pricing structures. We are aware that this
is something that customers are interested in evaluating and we are open to entertaining
discussion on that.”

While its clear, that the decision on the net metering program will be influential for solar power
in Idaho, it appears that there is scope for continued dialogue between the public, stakeholders,
and Idaho power, surrounding future renewable energy issues. We expected that a decision will
be made by the Public Utilities Commission on the amendments to the net metering program by
the next month.

Thanks very much too all our guests over the last two episodes, who have helped us explore the
topic of solar power in Idaho. You can list back to these episodes, and other KISU shows on For the next couple of weeks, we will be exploring the ISU sustainability club and the
topic of Salmon in Idaho’s rivers. Catch us next week, on Tuesday morning at 7,35am.