Commission taking comments on PURPA standards
State regulators will soon be deciding whether federal standards adopted under a new energy law should be required for Idaho’s regulated electric utilities.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will take comment through Oct. 27 on whether the state should adopt the five federal standards.
Title XII of The Energy Policy Act of 2005 amends a section of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) by adding five new ratemaking standards for electric utilities. State regulatory commissioners are to determine whether the new standards are appropriate for their states. The five standards include net metering, fuel source diversity, fossil fuel generation efficiency and interconnection service to customers with their own on-site generating facilities.
The commission recently invited the three applicable utilities – Idaho Power Co., Avista Utilities and Rocky Mountain Power (formerly Utah Power) – as well as interested stakeholders and the public to participate in a workshop regarding the proposed standards. It was the consensus of nearly all those attending the workshop that Idaho either meets or exceeds the proposed federal standards. The workshop participants agreed that the 18-month deadline under the smart metering standard was not reasonable.
Below is a summary of each of the standards adopted at the federal level and proposed for the states:
n Net metering. The federal standard says each utility is to make available net metering service to any consumer. Net metering allows a consumer who is generating his own electricity on site to be able to deliver that electricity to the local utility’s distribution system and be paid a certain amount (tariff) for the energy delivered. All three major Idaho electric utilities offer net metering programs.
n Fuel sources. The standard says each utility must develop a plan to minimize dependence on fuel sources and to ensure the energy it sells to consumers is from a diverse range of fuels and technologies, including renewable technologies. The utilities and workshop participants agreed this standard may already be met as a result of the commission’s requirement that each utility file an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) every two years. The IRP process requires each utility to describe their expectations for load growth, including an overview of their resource options.
n Fossil fuel generation efficiency. This standard requires each utility to implement a 10-year plan to increase the efficiency of its fossil fuel generation. All three major Idaho utilities have fossil fuel (coal and natural gas) generation. Again, the participants agreed that the IRP process requires a plan for generation efficiency. The Industrial Customers of Idaho Power did note that the commission might want to require future IRPs to more explicitly address fuel efficiencies.
n Smart metering. The federal standard requires that within 18 months, all utilities offer its customers a time-based rate schedule that permits the rate charged to vary during different periods to reflect the utility’s cost of generating and purchasing electricity at the wholesale level. The schedule would allow the customers to adjust their use away from times when electricity is most expensive. In Idaho, all utilities have, at minimum, initiated smart metering technology. Avista Utilities, in northern Idaho, began installing advanced meter reading (AMR) devices on electric and gas meters in 2005. Rocky Mountain Power in eastern Idaho, formerly Utah Power, has offered time-of-day service for many years. Idaho Power has implemented an AMR pilot program for more than 23,000 customers. A recent federal report says Idaho ranks fifth in the percent of customers who use AMR, 16.2 percent. Participants disagreed with or said they could not meet an 18-month deadline – by February 2007 – to have smart metering offered for all customer classes. Instead, the standard should be based according to each utility’s distinct territories and customer base.
n Interconnection. This standard encourages commissions to adopt “best practices” to promote the interconnection of customers on-site generating facilities to the local utility’s transmission system. Uniform standards are to address performance, operation, testing, maintenance and safety considerations for interconnections. In Idaho, these standards are similar to already established procedures for net metering and for interconnecting small-power projects already available under PURPA.
The commission will proceed under a modified procedure that allows this case to be handled through written public comments rather than by public hearing. However, comments may request a public hearing.
Those wishing to submit comments must do so by no later than Oct. 27. Comments are accepted via e-mail by accessing the commission’s homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov and clicking on "Comments & Questions." Fill in the case number (GNR-E-06-02) and enter your comments. Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.
A full text of the commission’s order, along with other documents related to this case, are available on the commission’s Web site. Click on “File Room” and then on “Electric Cases” and scroll down to the above case number.