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Thanks to market conditions, fair rules and 200 days per year of sunshine, Idaho is enjoying a solar energy boom. This is great news.

The bad news is: Idaho Power wants to change the rules and stop this progress.

Today, independent businesses are investing millions of dollars into Idaho’s clean energy sector. This means locally grown energy. It means jobs. It means a growing tax base. It protects the air we breathe.

By 2016, 13 new solar projects will come on line in Idaho and deliver hundreds of megawatts of clean energy. That’s roughly the size of a coal-fired power plant, but without the nasty air pollution and without turning the ground upside down for the coal.

Growing Idaho’s clean energy sector will help make us energy independent, bring investment to Idaho communities, and protect clean air and a stable climate for our kids.

But now Idaho Power wants to stop this growth. They claim Idaho doesn’t “need” more clean energy, that we have enough. Nonsense. If we don’t need more energy, why does Idaho Power want to build the Boardman to Hemingway transmission line?

Idaho needs reliable, fair-priced energy that also grows our economy and protects our future.

Over the next few weeks, the Idaho Conservation League will engage with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, Idaho Power and others to ensure Idaho’s energy rules balance fair-priced energy while protecting Idaho’s values.

A federal law requires utilities to buy clean energy that meets certain rules. The Idaho PUC sets these rules to meet Idaho’s values. These Idaho rules define the project size, the price for power and the contract terms. By balancing these three categories, the PUC can protect customer bills, ensure a reliable system and encourage clean energy investment. Striking the right balance provides a fair chance to grow Idaho’s clean energy sector and protects clean air for our families.

In 2012, the PUC adopted a new method, designed by Idaho Power, to set the right price for clean energy. Because they believed the pricing was accurate, the PUC allowed utilities to sign 20-year contracts. That’s the right balance.

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Unfortunately, Idaho Power now wants to change these rules to reduce the 20-year contract down to two years. This is simply unfair to the Idaho entrepreneurs trying to deliver clean energy.

Imagine if you wanted to buy a house and had to renegotiate the mortgage every two years. Would any bank give you a loan? Of course not. They think 15 and 30 years down the road.

That’s why when Idaho Power builds a power plant or transmission line, they get a long-term deal making us customers repay them for as long as the project operates. Idaho solar should get the same deal. That’s only fair.

We need to continue to grow Idaho’s clean energy in order to replace dirty, out-of-state coal power that is draining our energy dollars and polluting our environment. By working together, we can strike the right balance.

Instead of quashing clean energy, let’s work together to grow our economy while protecting the clear air that makes Idaho a great place to live.

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Ben Otto is the energy associate for the Idaho Conservation League.

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