ID: Solar gold rush leads to shorter PURPA contracts


The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has reduced from 20 years to five years the duration of PURPA contracts involving renewable-energy generators, including solar PV systems and wind turbines. The five-year contract length for these projects will remain in place until the PUC issues a decision in a case involving Idaho Power’s proposal to further reduce contract lengths to two years.

During the past four months, the PUC has approved PURPA contracts totaling 400 MW of PV in Idaho, and Idaho Power has reported that an additional 885 MW of PURPA PV capacity are in the queue, actively seeking PPA agreements beginning in 2016. Idaho Power’s peak load in 2013 was 3,407 MW.

The PUC has declared that PURPA allows states to determine avoided-cost rates and other contract terms and conditions — including contract duration. The PUC also expressed concern about Idaho Power’s “ability to balance the substantial amount of must-take intermittent generation and still reliably serve customers,” adding that PURPA does not address and FERC regulations “do not adequately provide for consideration of whether the utility being forced to purchase QF power is actually in need of such energy.”