Sunday, March 24, 2013

Iowa Feed in Tariff effort

An update on the Iowa feed In Tariff effort. The legislation has a new bill number- SF372.

Iowa Senate Democrats claim to be big supporters of renewable energy AND rural economic development. Here’s hoping they’ll prove it. They should schedule this bill for a Senate floor vote and support it. The success of this bipartisan effort depends on the Dem. caucus willingness to stand up to the utility lobby. I look for this bill to be supported as well by conservatives interested in free markets and helping Iowa small businesses. It will be hard for them to show support if Senate democrats sit on this bill, however.  Call your legislators!

The legislation also got some great national coverage this week by some of the best energy writers in the nation.  David Roberts @ wrote an excellent article . “Bipartisan support for clean distributed energy in Iowa of all places”.    Iowa legislators - if you want to lead on energy policy … here’s your chance.     

Leading national Feed in Tariff advocate Paul Gipe also wrote a great piece .

Another at National Law Review by Ari Peskoe.

There was also coverage from, An excellent source for energy wonks in the Midwest. It’s interesting to note that this is a project of REAMP , also a major funder of Midwest advocates of energy and environmental issues. To date, my research indicates that Midwest REAMP has not supported feed in tariff efforts, or other efforts to increase distributed generation in the Midwest, apart from a minor Iowa effort to support tax credits for solar PV, instead of funding efforts for education on the need for underlying regulatory reform needed to advance distributed generation. Hey REAMP … Germany – 25% renewable energy and on track to have lower electric prices than much of the Midwest by 2015.   Also, German renewables are heavily owned by German Farmers and citizens, building solid public support for renewable energy policy there. The United States – 4.72  percent renewables, with little local ownership in the Midwest. REAMP does not yet support feed in tariffs- preferring mainly to support energy efficiency, large scale wind farms and transmission efforts , and tax credits to advance renewable energy. None of which seems to have built sufficient public support for the renewable energy policy we need.  Maybe REAMP should take note of the Winston Churchill quote:   “Americans Will Always Do the Right Thing — After Exhausting All the Alternatives”   

Monday, March 18, 2013

MidAmerican wind farm property tax update

It’s time for an update on my research to determine if MidAmerican pays the correct property tax amount at its Pocahontas County wind project site.   A recent phone conversation with Dean Crist reaffirmed that MEC was not willing to share any of its confidential filings at the IUB.  Access to these documents is important to this effort.  As an example, IUB DOCKET NO. RPU-09-0003, filed in May 2009, contains testimony that estimates MEC’s installed cost per KW of wind. This testimony (by Nextera) states that MEC’s installed cost per KW could be as high as $2685 for future construction.   A 1.5 Megawatt turbine would cost slightly over $4 million using that cost per KW. As noted earlier, The 1.5 megawatt turbines installed at Pocahontas County in 2007 (2 years before) are valued for tax purposes at just below $2.6 million. So as you can see, it appears that that MEC’s confidential documents would certainly yield information to aid the county in determining property tax values.

I also expect these documents would contain figures of construction costs that were depreciated, and property tax estimates for the life of the project. Having access to itemized project costs will also be key.

Also of interest in this docket are estimates “As demonstrated in Exhibit ____ (MO-3), MidAmerican had non requirement sales for resale in 2008, according to its FERC Form 1 filings, of approximately 38% of its total sales of electricity, and approximately 42% of its total MWh sold. These percentages are significantly greater than the figures for other major utilities in the region as shown in Exhibit ____ (MO-3). The peer company that comes closest to these levels of wholesale sales is Ameren, where 33% of its total MWh sold were sales for resale but only 16% of its total sales were non-requirements sales for resale, as compared to 42% for MidAmerican. All the other peer companies reported less than 10% of their sales for resale as non-requirement sales.”

 It appears MEC sells a lot of its capacity on the wholesale market. The IUB agreed to a settlement late last year, allowing MEC a rate increase to cover costs.  At MEC’s “Empower U” meetings late last year, the utility discussed its plans for future rate hikes.  Really, this could probably be the subject of an entire series researching the extent, if any; the utilities wholesale electricity sales affect customer rates.  Not sure that I want to be the one to do that after sifting through property tax and Tax Increment Financing though! Kind of seems like there are more enjoyable pastimes.  

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

MidAmerican and wind farm property Tax

An update is coming soon on this issue

Iowa Feed In Tariff Effort

Iowa’s Feed in Tariff effort got very nice coverage from Paul Gipe @ The bill passed the state Senate agriculture committee last week and eligible for Senate floor debate.  Thanks to Ag committee Senators!  Also, thanks to I-RENEW and Iowa Farmers Union for their support of FiTs.    

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Feed In Tariff bill Passed Out Of Senate Ag Committee!

A feed in tariff bill passed the IA Senate Ag committee this week. SSB1234 , authored by Senator Joe Seng, is eligible for a floor vote. If passed by the legislature, this bill would result in a significant amount of newly installed wind energy owned by farmers and Iowans, and jobs for rural Iowa. This is one of the best rural economic development bills taken up by the legislature in years.  

    Its future is uncertain as the Senate floor leader will most likely be under extreme pressure by Iowa utility lobbyists to prevent a floor vote. A similar bill was introduced in the 2007 Iowa legislature. It had huge bipartisan support, as 33 of 50 senators were cosponsors of the bill, including the senate floor leader, Micheal Gronstal. The bill advanced from committee and was scheduled for a floor vote. Just before the vote, the bill was pulled from the schedule and reassigned to a Senate Ways and Means subcommittee chaired by Senator Rob Hogg, where the bill eventually died. This is a fine example of the amount of influence the utility lobby wields at the legislature. They were able to stop a bill that seemed almost certain to pass, supported by most Senators and Representatives.  Iowa missed out on a huge opportunity for jobs, rural economic development, and renewable energy owned by Iowans. Yes, I’m deliberately repeating myself a bit.
Since then, every bill that attempts to help Iowans get a fair price their electricity sales has died in subcommittee, fiercely opposed by the utilities. It will be interesting to see if the Iowa Senate once again fails to support a renewable energy bill that helps Iowa farmers and citizens install distributed wind generation. They may once again bypass addressing the regulatory changes needed, and instead pass tax credits or other incentives in order give the appearance of a small victory for distributed Generation.  In closing, another excellent feed in tariff bill with bipartisan support, SF315 , which includes solar and biomass facilities, was introduced to the Senate commerce committee, and appears unlikely to be discussed before the funnel deadline for bills to pass out of committee this year.   

Stay tuned,
Better yet, call your legislator to voice support for these efforts.