Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Another Iowa Renewable Energy Policy Update - January 2014

Here’s an update to the last post. More Iowa energy news:

The Iowa Utilities Board has opened a docket  (pdf) to gather information on distributed generation, “both for utilities and their ratepayers, on policies that should be examined with respect to distributed generation, and to identify the technical, financial, regulatory, and safety aspects of distributed generation that should be examined in this docket. While the questions are broad, the Board also invites participants to comment on other issues that they believe are relevant to the discussion regarding distributed generation. Those issues could include, but are not limited to, the potential rate ramifications of distributed generation to participating and non-participating ratepayers, the impacts of distributed generation on the reliability of the electric transmission and distribution systems and the need for future transmission expansion (including any issues that may impact regional transmission system operations), the economic impacts of widespread distributed generation, and whether the existing consumer protection laws are adequate with respect to the sale and installation of distributed generation equipment.” That’s pretty wide open. You might consider filing comments if you’re an Iowa DG fan, the utilities will be commenting… Things haven’t been too friendly for small scale wind and solar fans at the IUB lately. During a recent docket on energy efficiency, the board allowed Alliant Energy to end its customer rebate program for solar PV. Before that it ruled against solar leasing proponents on 3rd party power purchase agreements (see previous post). A few years before that, the board adopted standard interconnection procedures for distributed generation, but only for investor owned utilities, not RECs or Municipals. It looks like they might revisit the interconnection standards. This will be a pretty important docket.

     “Bill Hansen, a retired 83-year-old former Iowa lawmaker and lifelong Republican”, is advocating for small scale - customer owned solar in the Arizona solar debate. I wish he would come back to Iowa and spend some time with the Iowa Utility Board, and also Iowa Republicans, as there doesn’t seem to be many Iowa “R” legislators supportive of distributed generation. Before you Democrats start high-fiving each other, don’t forget it was the “Ds” who stopped distributed generation in Iowa last year.

U.S. sailors say radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant made them sick. I added this link because Iowan’s live close to some Fukushima style reactors .

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Iowa imported $590 million of coal in 2012. “Money that could be used to invest in local economies”, like more distributed generation for instance.

In national energy news, a Florida legislator “wants to end the public utility monopoly on selling power to consumers, as well as open competition for development of renewable energy in Florida” saying "When it comes to energy policy, Florida is in the Stone Age." This brings us to the latest post from NRG’s David Crane – “Keep Digging”. He has advice for the nations utilities- he finds “the prevailing strategic consensus of American electric utilities — B2R (back to regulated) — amusingly ill-advised. In the new technology-driven, sustainability-focused energy industry of the 21st century, you can run from competition and free market capitalism, but you can’t hide. I guess, when it comes to utility strategy, what we are seeing is just a twist on the old adage: When you are in a hole, keep digging!”
I’ve said previously, that a lot of utilities haven’t figured out that the customer is always right. A lot of Iowa utility customers are going to want to own renewable energy facilities.  Picking a fight with your customer probably isn’t the best strategy. Utilities who try to corner the market on renewables and transmission lines might end up with un-needed facilities and debt on stranded assets.  

  The time is coming where a lot of us will not only generate our own electricity, but also be able to keep our lights on when the grid gives out. Crane has a plan, using the large existing underground natural gas infrastructure to compliment solar PV, noting that super storm Sandy showed the advantages to that idea.   A Canadian man even used his electric car as a generator during a recent ice storm. “Kids” don’t try this at home. You need proper safety equipment before using any kind of back up power equipment.      

My next post will be an update on the MidAmerican wind property tax issue.   

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