The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a proposal from Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, to significantly lower the rate charged to integrate wind energy into its system.
The new wind integration rate approved by the PUC is $0.57/MWh; the previous rate was $3.06/MWh. Notably, the PUC says it also implemented a solar integration rate of $.60/MWh.
These wind and solar rates apply to facilities that qualify for 20-year contracts under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA). Intended to spur the development of domestic energy, PURPA requires regulated utilities to purchase energy from qualifying independent power producers at rates established by state commissions, the PUC explains.
In Idaho, facilities smaller than 100 kW and powered by intermittent sources such as wind and solar are eligible for 20-year contracts at the published rate set by the Idaho PUC. The rate is referred to as the avoided-cost rate because it is intended to be no higher than the rate at which the utility could generate the power on its own or the rate at which the utility could purchase the energy elsewhere.
The integration rate for solar and wind facilities that qualify for power purchase agreements under PURPA is deducted from the avoided-cost rate paid by the utility. In its proposal to the commission, Rocky Mountain Power said its analysis had found that the costs of wind energy and its integration had fallen significantly since 2008, when the previous integration rate was set. The company also said solar generation on its system has been “insignificant” in the past but is expected to exceed 1 GW by the end of 2017.
The PUC notes that interested parties may petition for reconsideration no later than Dec. 19. The full PUC decision can be read here.