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The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Tuesday begins what could be three days of hearings over the method used to determine what small-power producers are paid.

The case began in late 2010 when Idaho Power Co., Avista and PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power petitioned the PUC to investigate a number of issues related to utility purchases from renewable power developers. Idaho Power claimed it was being forced by federal law to buy wind generation it did not need at rates that were not reasonable for customers.

Utilities argue changes are needed so that energy they are required to buy from renewable projects is more accurately priced so that customers do not end up paying too much for energy generated by qualified facilities (QFs).

Small-power producers generally argue that states are charged by Congress to encourage development of the QF industry under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act and that the proposed changes will discourage independent renewable power development in Idaho.

Other parties to the case include the Northwest and Intermountain Power Producers Coalition, J.R. Simplot Co. and the Idaho Conservation League.

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