The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is accepting an Idaho Power Co. business plan spelling out how the utility intends to treat the credits it earns from renewable energy sources, the commission said in a release. Customer groups have differed in the case over whether the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs or “green tags”) should be sold to benefit customers or retired to meet possible renewable energy standards.
A Renewable Energy Credit is issued to each utility for every megawatt-hour of electricity generated by an eligible renewable energy resource. The credits represent a currency that can be traded on an active market to entities wishing to support renewable energy. The commission said RECs are becoming more valuable as a growing number of states require their regulated utilities to buy or generate a certain amount of power from renewable sources.
Idaho Power’s 101-megawatt Elkhorn wind project in Oregon and its 13-megawatt Raft River geothermal project in south-central Idaho generated more than 320,000 megawatt hours of RECs for Idaho Power in 2007 and 2008.
Last year, after reconsideration, the commission directed Idaho Power to sell its 2007 and 2008 RECs and use the approximate $1.7 million in proceeds to benefit ratepayers. Idaho Power originally requested that it be allowed to retire, rather than sell, the RECs in anticipation of federal or state renewable mandates. By retiring the RECs, Idaho Power said it could represent to renewable energy certification programs and to customers that it is meeting customer expectations for increased use of renewable energy.
Standards established by Green-e Energy, the nation’s leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy, say that green tags sold by utilities from a renewable project cannot be counted twice – by the utility doing the selling and the purchaser. Thus, when Idaho Power sells its green tags, the company maintains it can no longer represent to customers that customers are receiving the benefits of renewable energy projects that carry green tags, the commission said. According to Idaho Power, the Green-E standards prohibit the utility from using visuals of its wind or geothermal projects in charts, graphs or line art as part of the green resources delivered to customers if the green tags that accompany those projects are sold.
Idaho, unlike many other states, does not require its regulated utilities to generate a certain amount of its power from renewable sources, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission said. But retaining the green tags would allow Idaho Power to satisfy any future state or federal laws imposing renewable portfolio standards, the company claimed in its original filing.
After the commission granted Idaho Power’s request to retire the tags, the Industrial Customers of Idaho Power petitioned for reconsideration, arguing the value associated with the RECs belongs to the ratepayers and should be sold to benefit them, the commission said. The Idaho Conservation League and the Renewable Northwest Project argued that the commission allow the utility to retire the RECs.
After reconsideration, the commission directed the company to sell the RECs. But the order allowing them to be sold also required the company to submit a business plan on how it intends to treat REC sales in the future.
In April, Idaho Power submitted that plan which proposes that, in the short term, the RECs be sold and the customers’ share of the proceeds be returned to customers in the annual Power Cost Adjustment process. In the longer term, Idaho Power plans to continue acquiring and holding contractual rights to own the RECs to meet any possible future renewable energy standards.