Idaho utilities seek ownership of renewable energy credits

A bill that would require renewable energy credits to go to public utilities was introduced in the Senate State Affairs Committee Wednesday.
Idaho Power Co., Avista and Rocky Mountain Power Co are pushing the legislation, which would shift the ownership of the credits worth in some cases millions, from the power producers to the utilities who are required to buy the power under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act — PURPA.


Passed by Congress in 1978, PURPA was written to encourage small, sustainable power production and assures these companies a market and a set rate for their electricity. Public utilities like Idaho Power
are a monopoly and the law was designed to provide competition.
The utilities say the law will allow them to sell the credits so they can reduce their customers’ electric rates. And if the federal government establishes Renewable Portfolio Standards in the future, the utilities will hold the credits for the renewable energy they are running in their market areas. Otherwise, rates could skyrocket.
But the renewable energy credit markets were created to help defray the costs of developing renewable energy projects. Without them, most renewable projects would not be viable.
But the utilities for years have stopped efforts to pass renewable portfolio standards in Idaho that would require them to have a specific amount of new renewable energy on their systems. Surrounding
states have such standards and Idaho companies like Clearwater Paper, which operates a 40 megawatt co-generation plant at its paper mill in Lewiston, sell their credits or RECs to utilities to meet the standard.
Idaho Power has been splitting the credits with developers recently. This bill would automatically give them ownership. Clearwater is currently in negotiations with Avista to renew its contract and would be forced to give up its RECs if Avista chose not to include them.
The Senate State Affairs Committee approved printing the bill but no hearing date has been set.


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