Eye On Boise

Energy plan hearing prompts debate over sales of 'green tags' from renewables

The Legislature's Energy, Environment & Technology Interim Committee has opened its hearing this morning on proposed revisions to the 2007 Idaho Energy Plan. First up to testify was Annie Black, a Boise resident and former manager of the green power program at Idaho Power Co., who said Idaho's current PUC policies require utilities to sell their Renewable Energy Credits, or “green tags,” when they purchase or generate renewable power from sources like wind or geothermal. Those RECs are generally sold out of state, allowing customers there to claim the environmental benefits of that renewable power production.

“Yes, we are generating that wind in Idaho … but we're not delivering that same wind profile” to power customers in Idaho, Black said. “Credits are very desirable if you live in California and have renewable portfolio standards,” she said. “The commission has said that the renewable energy credit is not something that customers need and want. … I know there are a lot of customers that do want to be able to count some small component of what comes to their home.”

One of the three “pillars” cited in the proposed revisions to the energy plan is to enhance Idaho's collective “energy IQ,” Black said. In line with that, she said, Idahoans should be fully informed that the environmental benefits from renewable power generated in Idaho aren't actually coming to their homes; they're being sold elsewhere.

Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Curtis McKenzie said that may just confuse consumers. Under the current system, he said, “It's keeping my costs down as a ratepayer and encouraging the production of renewable energy … in the state.” Black said, however, that since the environmental benefits are sold elsewhere, consumers are being misled when they see charts showing how much renewable power is generated in the state and assume they benefit from that. “It could be the right thing for the ratepayer and the state, what we're doing,” she said, “but don't assume that the wind energy that comes to your door comes with the right to pat yourself on the back, that you're somehow … polluting less,” when that environmental benefit is actually being sold to offset higher-polluting power production elsewhere.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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