Iowa Utilities Board Distributed Generation
Breaking News Update October 7, 2016
The "Breaking News Update July 21" below explains the modest revisions to the net metering tariffs ordered by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB). The order if implemented in letter and spirit would continue net metering largely as we know it for another three years in Iowa. This is a major accomplishment after nearly three years of docket testimony in which the utilities moved to end net metering as we know it, and an important sign of unity throughout Iowa's government in support of an accelerated clean energy transition and customer and community inclusion.
The Investor-Owned Utilities (Alliant/IPL and MidAmerican) have now submitted their revised net metering tariffs (they now call them Net Billing) to the Board, which has docketed them separately and invited public comments. MidAmerican's proposed net billing tariff closely follows the letter and spirit of the Board order, while Alliant/IPL's proposed net billing tariff in our opinion does not, and would seriously undermine solar opportunities for their customers.
Winneshiek Energy District will be submitting comments in the Alliant/IPL docket by the deadline of October 21, and we are now calling for all stakeholders to to submit comments on Alliant's proposed net billing tariff. We offer a page of suggested talking points for Alliant/IPL docket TF-2016-0321, and encourage stakeholders to make the message their own. (Scroll all the way to the bottom of this page for directions on comment submission, but remember to replace the previous docket number NOI-2014-0001 with TF-2016-0321)
IUB order docketing the tariff for further investigation and setting dates for public comment
IUB order docketing the tariff for further investigation and setting dates for public comment
Breaking News Update July 21, 2016
On Tuesday July 19, the Iowa Utilities Board issued an Order Directing Filing of Net Metering Tariffs. The order is a milestone in this docket, in which Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy had recently submitted plans to end net metering as it currently exists for customer owned and contracted generation (mostly solar PV). We will leave our previous docket summary and resources posted below in black text, while providing a brief overview of the current happenings in brown (also described in Midwest Energy News here).
We consider the current Board order a major victory in theory for distributed generation, net metering, and customer and community owned solar in Iowa, because it appears to largely maintain the status quo for another three years. The devil will be in the details and we expect the utilities to continue to undermine net metering through this process. The Board ordered the two investor-owned utilities to submit revisions to the current net metering tariff by August 15th that include three changes, presented verbatim:
- Increase the net metering cap from 500kW to 1MW (up to 100% of a customer's load).
- Allow all customer classes to net meter, but specify that each customer's generation will only offset the energy (kWh) charges and thus will not offset the customer charge or demand charge; and
- Provide for an annual cash-out of excess credits at the utility's tariffed avoided cost rate. The data collected and the amount of excess credits generated by the net-metered customers, those in excess of net-metering offset, should provide the Board information to address possible rule changes. The annual cash-out shall take place during the first billing cycle of the calendar year. The funds from the cash-out will be divided evenly between the customer and the utilities' funds to provide assistance to customers in need, or the customer may choose to allow up to all the excess credits to be distributed to provide assistance to customers in need.
The order states this is a "temporary" adjustment to the existing net metering tariff that will be in effect for three years. Current net metering customers and those in production prior to the new tariff approval will retain the original net metering tariff. Net metering customers in production after the temporary change is approved will be enrolled in the new tariff and will be guaranteed those terms for the life of the connected equipment.
RELATIVE to what the utilities proposed, as we stated above this could signify a strong victory for solar and distributed generation advocates. HOWEVER, the Board order is not effective until the utilities submit their revised tariffs and they are approved by the Board. We fully expect the utilities to include variations on the above conditions, and/or additional specifications, in their submitted tariffs that would be much more onerous for future net metering customers than the Board conditions alone.
The Board ordered the utilities to submit the revisions to the net metering tariff by August 15th, which would take effect as soon as approved by the Board. This could happen relatively quickly, or the submitted tariffs could be contested and the process go on for quite some time. There should be opportunity for further public comment once the utilities submit the revised tariffs, and we will be vigilant and keep you posted as the process proceeds.
Utility regulatory and policy issues are complicated! On this page we provide (scroll down):
- a brief summary of the "distributed generation" docket in the Iowa Utilities Board where the utilities are attempting to end retail rate net metering in Iowa
- three documents we're posting in June 2016 to help you develop and submit comments
- direct links to the most recent testimony and presentations submitted
- in the left sidebar, links to past Energy District testimony, and below that links to relevant outside sources
On January 7, 2014, the Iowa Utilities Board (Board) issued an order commencing an inquiry docket into distributed generation (DG). DG includes the full spectrum of customer owned or third-party owned electrical generation systems. Solar photovoltaic (PV) is the most common and rapidly growing form of DG, and allow households, businesses, farms, and institutions to generate a portion of their own energy. The IUB docket is part of a nationwide push by large investor-owned electric utilities to add costs and regulatory hurdles to DG in order to restrict its growth. You can access docket NOI-2014-0001 on the web, sort columns by submission date, submitting party, and more.
After initial rounds of testimony on many aspects of distributed generation the Board decided to focus on interconnection and net metering issues, and the latter has dominated recent rounds of testimony. It is now official, on March 28th, 2016, both Alliant/IPL and MidAmerican Energy submitted their "pilots" proposals creating roadmaps to do away with net metering as we know it for most Iowans by 2017.
We encourage all Iowans supportive of the economic development and stewardship opportunities of locally owned renewable energy to submit comments to the Board. In support of that effort we offer a 4-page context and talking points document, (condensed points summarized on page 1), a 1-page table comparing the utility proposals (as best we understand them - they're incomplete), and a 1-page guide for submitting comments by mail. The Board prefers (and we recommend) comments submitted online through their electronic filing system, make sure to use the docket number NOI-2014-0001 and attach your comments (more directions at the bottom of this page.)
Once you've submitted comments in this docket you're a docket participant. We encourage all docket participants to attend Alliant's stakeholder meeting in Cedar Rapids on Thursday June 16, 9:30am to 3pm.
At the same time the utilities presented roadmaps away from net metering, Winneshiek Energy District presented a "Winneshiek Shared Solar" pilot project that attempts to address key net metering issues the Board asked to see addressed in pilot proposals, and offered extensive comments on fundamental principles underpinning net metering, fair and equitable access to a 21st century grid, and the tremendous economic opportunity of locally owned renewable energy. Our testimony and that of the two utilities are linked below, together with "educational presentations" shared at Board hearings leading up to the recent filing.
Winneshiek Energy District testimony submitted March 28th (presenting the Winneshiek Shared Solar pilot, then (pp 9-16) a case to keep net metering and expand access, at least until a full solar valuation study has taken place)
Alliant/IPL testimony submitted March 28th (presenting their roadmap away from net metering)
MidAmerican Energy testimony submitted March 28th (presenting their roadmap away from net metering)
Reply testimony submitted by an environmental coalition opposing the utility proposals to replace net metering
Reply testimony submitted by a large group of Iowa legislators opposing the utility proposals to restrict DG growth and encourging the Board to keep net metering intact
Winneshiek Energy District believes it is inappropriate for the utilities to be proposing "pilots" that begin implementation of a clearly defined roadmap away from net metering within this "notice of inquiry" docket. We hope the Board will put a clear hold on that roadmap, fully explain the current fork in the road to the public, and invite public comment again from all intersted stakeholders (all Iowans!) If they are willing to entertain such utility pilots, at the very least we urge them to undertake a comprehensive Value of Solar study applicable to both investor-owned utilities along the lines of what other states (including Minnesota) have done. The study should be funded by the Board and coordinated by the Office of Consumer Advocate.