Idaho Students Refuse to Stand Down on Equitable Solar: An Open Letter to the PUC

Dear Commissioner Anderson and Commissioner Chatburn,

In the midst of exams and project deadlines marking the end of our semester and the beginning of the holidays, we are now forced to turn our attention from academics and family time to your egregious decision to accept the Idaho Power VODER Solar Study in whole, without further revisions. Your choice to neglect the communities in Idaho in favor of a monopoly corporation shows us, the future, that you don’t just undervalue our feedback, but actively choose to ignore it. 

We firmly assert that the criteria for the VODER Study was NOT met as laid out by the previous case, starting with Idaho Power’s avoidance of factoring societal and environmental benefits into their final rate calculations. It has been directly proven by reputable sources, such as the Crossborder Energy Study and similar studies conducted in surrounding states, that these benefits are quantifiable and have a monetary value that can be calculated with openly available data—and do affect customer rates. In your decision, you claim to “find nothing in the record to support the conclusion that the Company’s October VODER Study does not withstand expert scrutiny,” when the blinding reality is that actual experts concluded that there were flaws in the data, calculations, and assumptions made by Idaho Power. If a 3rd party of experts can reach such drastically different conclusions from Idaho Power, then it should call into question the choices Idaho Power made to cherry-pick data and methods. To make the choice to dismiss relevant sources like the Crossborder Energy study speaks only to the desire to praise and rubber stamp Idaho Power’s self-serving study and avoid doing the only thing we have asked you to do: hold them accountable.

As a Public Utilities Commission, it is your responsibility to protect Idahoans from unjust policies brought forth by monopoly utilities like Idaho Power. Your power to regulate exists to protect the community, not the profits of Idaho Power, and you have utterly failed to wield this power in any meaningful way. Let’s be completely clear—you received over 950 written comments, the vast majority of which opposed the VODER study, and heard hours of oral testimony, ALL of which opposed the study. It’s disingenuous to say you ‘appreciate the robust level of public participation’ when it made no difference in your decision.

Despite that testimony taking place at hearings held in November, you moved to completely accept the October VODER study. Did it even matter whether or not people testified? People across the state took the time and energy to provide thoughtful feedback, and to take none of that into meaningful consideration is a disservice to everyone who came—the parents who had to arrange childcare, the small business owners and employees who took time from their work day to fight for the basis of their livelihoods, the young homeowners who rely on their solar systems to provide stability on their electric bills, and the students like us that spend each day watching the environment crumble around us as people in power continue to ignore us and ignore the reality of climate change. This kind of performative “public input process” continues chipping away at the shaky foundation of trust between community members and the regulatory system.

What may seem like a simple case on a utility’s solar study actually sets a dangerous precedent for all future rate cases on solar—Idaho Power will continue squandering residential and community owned solar in an effort to own it all themselves and line their pockets while leaving no alternatives for folks hoping to choose where their energy comes from. This is unjust, and we will continue to demand better. It’s time for you and Idaho Power to cut the hypocrisy—we need solar democracy.  

We write this letter to serve as a reminder that we, the youth, the future of Idaho and the world, are watching. We will continue to empower our communities to make their voices heard.  The longer you ignore us, the louder we will be. The next generations, our children and our children’s children, deserve a liveable planet, and they’ll look back in time to see what we did to stop the climate crisis before it is too late—where will you stand in that memory? 

Happy holidays, and we’ll see you for the next case in the new year.

Idaho Climate Justice League
& youth across Idaho

Hannah Amick, Timberline High
Kylie Jackson, Bishop Kelly High
Mayisa Rahman, Timberline High
Mia Heinlein, Moscow High
Michel Liao, Timberline High
Molly O’Sullivan, Bishop Kelly High
Nicholas Thomas, Boise High
Nikita Thomas, Boise High
Nusha Rahman, Les Bois Junior High
Ruby Bollinger, Boise High
Sayed Mirbacha, Timberline High
Shiva Rajbhandari, Boise High
Sherlyn Mesillas, Capital High
Sidney Snider, Timberline High
Allie Bruce, Boise High
Amaia Clayton, Renaissance High
Andrew Dodds, Boise High
Atlas, Boise High
Atticus Perkins, Sage International School
Aubree McCarthy, Bishop Kelly High
Augustus Wohlschledgel, Timberline High
Ava Booth, Idaho Home Learning Academy
Avery Navest, Timberline High
Bryten Milton, Boise High
Caitlin Yang, Timberline High
Chloe Hueth, Boise High
Divya Elancheren, Timberline High
Elizabeth Martin, Eagle High
Ella Brown, Boise High
Emily Schmidt, Kuna High
Emma Brulotte, Canyon Ridge High
Fiona, Boise High
Gabriella Stanton, Bishop Kelly High
Gordon Salzman, Boise High
Gyansri Koirala, Capital High
Jack Gibbons, Borah High
Jack McManus, McCall-Donnelly High
Jack Tobin, Bishop Kelly High
Jane Carney, Boise High
Justin He, Timberline High
Justin Siek, Timberline High
Kade Andrus, Mountain View High
Kaden Helder, Boise High
Kennedy Howland, Capital High
Lillian Stahlberg, Sage International School
Lily Saperston, Boise High
Lola Ramos, Capital High
Lucy Glynn, Bishop Kelly High
Lydia Kamann, Bishop Kelly High
Mikolaj Hendershot, Timberline High
Natasha D’Souza, Bishop Kelly High
Noor Sodhi, Eagle High
Parker Christensen, Rocky Mountain High
Pine Goodman, One Stone Lab 51
Rosaura Albizo, Boise High
Ryan Weiss, Boise High
Sara Belen Tena, Bishop Kelly High
Scout Alford, Lewiston High
Taelyn Baiza, Boise High
Yvonne Shen, Boise High
Zoe Fragias, Boise High
Cheyon Sheen, Twin Falls High Graduate, Boise State University
Sneha Sharma, Timberline High Graduate, University of Texas
Saumya Sarin, One Stone Lab 51 Graduate, The College of Idaho
Ella Weber, Boise High Graduate, University of Idaho
Ethan Hobson, Borah High Graduate, Boise State University