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Iowa high court upholds net metering rule

(Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Wind Energy Weekly, Vol. 23, #1103, 07/30/04: The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Sweckers, an Iowa family who have been pursuing with their local utility, Midland Power Cooperative (one of Central Iowa Power Cooperative's members), the ability to connect their 65-kW wind system with a net metering tariff ; The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had ruled in the Sweckers' favor in late 2003 (see Wind Energy Weekly #1072, 12 December, 2003).

For the past five years, the Sweckers had been seeking interconnection and damages before FERC, the Iowa Utilities Board, the Iowa Supreme Court, and the Federal District Court, claiming that Midland had repeatedly obstructed their efforts to reach an interconnection agreement; The federal court remanded the case back to the state court, saying it lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

Midland had proposed a separate billing approach, under which two separate measurements would be required -- one to measure power flowing from Midland and the other to measure power flowing from the cogenerator -- allowing Midland to collect its full retail rate for energy sold, but pay only its avoided cost for the electricity purchased.

The Iowa district court held the parties are required to use net metering, under which the utility uses one meter to measure the net amount of electricity sold or purchased to or from a cogenerator over a specified period of time.

In its ruling, the state Supreme Court affirmed the district court's finding that net metering is to be used in settling accounts between the utility company and its cogenerating customers. It ruled that separate billing is inconsistent with the interpretation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) and federal regulations by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Iowa Utilities Board.

The independent power producer and renewable energy communities had been closely watching this case. Iowa Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (SEED) Coalition had filed comments in the summer against Central Iowa Power Cooperative's request for a waiver from components of PURPA because it would have discouraged rural Iowans from setting up small renewable energy systems; The decision appears to set a precedent for net metering across the state.