On this likely last day of this year's legislative session, the Senate State Affairs Committee opened its meeting at 7:30 a.m. today, to take up HB 348, the first of two pieces into which the energy compromise bill has been broken. This bill lowers the maximum size of small wind and solar projects that would qualify for favorable pricing under the PURPA law from 10 megawatts to 100 kilowatts. “This means that Idaho has turned an important corner,” House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, told the Senate committee. “What this does is basically codify the PUC policy at this point. It says that from now on, wind and solar projects in Idaho will follow the IRP model, or they will negotiate with the utility, rather than have that chunk of power forced into the utility's portfolio at a non-negotiated rate.”
Idaho's big utilities had been objecting to having to take on wind power at favorable prices; that was why they earlier opposed the extension of the renewable energy rebate that's now scheduled to expire June 30. The compromise extends the rebate for renewables other than wind and solar through Dec. 31, 2014, but wind and solar projects get just until Oct. 31, 2011 to have their projects under contract to qualify for the rebate. That piece of the compromise is now in HB 347, which is scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. hearing in the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee this morning.
The Senate committee had little debate as it unanimously approved HB 348 this morning on a voice vote; numerous interested folks were present, but senators had just one technical question for them.