Home power generators may see new rate schedule

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Rocky Mountain Power is seeking permission to close its net-metering program to new applicants in Idaho at the end of this year. It wants to create a new program for residential customers who generate their own electricity, while continuing to use Rocky Mountain Power's network.

The utility wants the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) to determine the value of excess energy provided to the company from customers who own their own generating facilities. And, the company wants a 10-year transition period to move existing net-metering customers to the new tariff.

The company argues that its rates are set based on the cost of providing electricity to all of its customers.  People who generate their own power, but still use the power grid most of the time, don't pay their share of the expense of providing service.

"Rocky Mountain Power's analysis demonstrates that the current treatment of net metering customers unfairly shifts costs to non-net metering customers," said Joelle Steward, vice president. "The present retail rate design collects 89 percent of the fixed costs to serve customers through the kilowatt-hour or energy charge, resulting in a net metering program that fails to cover the true costs of providing the service."

Rocky Mountain Power says the cost of maintaining its network services is separate from the energy provided.  As a result, it says those costs are shifted to other customers who don't generate their own power. "Compensation at the retail rate for generation exported to the grid is significantly more expensive than other sources of power available for our customers," said Steward.

The company estimates it's actually paying 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for customer-generated energy.   Under the new net-billing program, the total compensation would be 8.5 cents.

Under the current program, a typical residential generator would have a payback of 9.6 years.  Under the new program, the same system would have a payback period of about 14.4 years.

As the IPUC studies the company's request, the public will have opportunity to comment over the coming months.  

The request is available at the company's offices in Rexburg, Preston, Shelley and Montpelier and HERE.

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