Idaho Power wants to change federal renewable energy contract

Idaho Power Co. is seeking permission to stop buying renewable energy through the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). The utility has said that it is paying excessive prices for power that comes from renewable resources.

Passed by Congress in 1978, PURPA was written to encourage small, sustainable power production and assure a market for renewable ventures. Idaho Public Utilities Commission is currently studying PURPA rates and policies, and is expected to complete the review in the summer or fall.

Specifically, the utility has seen a rush on wind production. The company seeks several changes, all of which it argues will keep rates from rising, which could occur from implementing a higher amount of renewable energy. One proposed change would shorten PURPA contracts from lasting 20 years to five.

Another change would be setting a stricter schedule on when a contract is legally enforceable. The company wants to base all PURPA pricing — not just wind — more on the company’s need for the energy.

The American Wind Group said Idaho Power’s action is “an attack on wind energy,” according to the Twin Falls Times-News.

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