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According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, Idaho ranks 21st in installed solar with over 488 megawatts installed, enough to power 64,443 homes.

As a result of a decision by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission last week, grandfathered-in rates for the sale of power from home solar systems will apply to the systems even when the house they are on is sold.

The decision was part of an order granting a petition filed by Meridian resident Richard Kluckhohn.

The order also denied a petition filed by Idaho Power asking for reconsideration of the PUC’s rejection of a proposed settlement agreement that would change how home solar producers are paid for excess power they sell to the utility. The proposed agreement involves net metering, which records the amount of power produced by a home power producer relative to the amount the home consumes.

In its decision applying grandfathered status to the system rather than to the person who installed it, the PUC clarified that customers who own a solar system can add another system on their property at the net-metering payment rate in place at that time without jeopardizing the original system’s grandfathered status.

The order notes that Idaho Power was not opposed to Kluckhohn’s request, and states that grandfathering by system will be more efficient for the utility to administer and would give existing customers with on-site generation more opportunity to recoup their investment.

The decision lists four criteria for grandfathering by system:

l A customer who moves into a property with a grandfathered net-metering system gets to “inherit” the grandfathered status of the system. Likewise, when a customer moves from a property with a grandfathered system, that customer does not get to take the grandfathered status of the system with them to their next property.

l If a system is offline for more than six months, or is moved to another site, the grandfathered status of the system is forfeited.

l To allow for the replacement of degraded or broken panels, a customer may increase the capacity of the grandfathered system by no more than 10 percent of the originally installed capacity or one kilowatt, whichever is greater.

l Grandfathered status terminates Dec. 20, 2045.

The PUC also ordered that if a customer with grandfathered status adds generating capacity to his or her system, the customer can do so without losing the original system’s grandfathered status if Idaho Power can separately measure the energy flows from the different systems.

The PUC’s order rejected Idaho Power’s proposal to immediately replace the current monthly net billing with hourly billing, though with no immediate change to the compensation value, and to continue to study the value of excess net energy. Idaho Power stated that it is “well established” that moving from net monthly billing to hourly billing is an important step toward reducing “inequitable shifting” of the utility’s production costs from home solar producers to regular customers, according to the decision.

However, the decision notes that the Idaho Clean Energy Association, a nonprofit organization composed of clean-energy businesses, contended that Idaho Power has never proven that cost shift.

“The other parties strongly disagree that implementing net hourly billing would be appropriate without further study,” the PUC stated.

The decision also concluded that Idaho Power had not carried out a “comprehensive study” on the need for its proposed change to net hourly billing, as it had been ordered to do.

“We find that the Company’s proposal discounts the ability of public input to shape the scope, method, and results of a comprehensive study,” the commission concluded. “Net hourly billing is a central aspect of the Settlement Agreement. Implementing piecemeal portions of a Settlement Agreement, which we held was not supported by sufficient evidence as a whole, would be improper.”

In a statement, Ben Otto of the Idaho Conservation League said that “once again, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission is standing up for the people of Idaho.”

“It’s clear that the commission wants to take the time to do this right, listen to Idaho families and businesses, and not be bullied by Idaho Power,” Otto said.

Idaho Power spokesman Jordan Rodriguez said in an email that the company will continue to work with the PUC, customers and stakeholders to comply with the order and follow the commission’s recommended process in hopes of reaching a service offering that is sustainable and fair to all Idaho Power customers.

Email the writer: gmoore@mtexpress.com

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