IEC and Coalition File Petition to Fix Alliant Net Metering Pilot

posted by Nathaniel Baer on Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Iowa Environmental Council and a coalition of state and national groups have filed a petition with the Iowa Utilities Board to reconsider any approval of an Alliant Energy pilot program for net metering. In the petition, our coalition requests that the Board reconsider the use of one of the main components of the pilot – the use of a customer’s one time demand, rather than annual energy consumption, to limit the size of a renewable energy system that can net meter. Alternately, if the Alliant approach to the pilot remains, we requested a number of provisions and clarifications to make sure the approach works as well as possible for solar and other forms of distributed renewable energy. 

At issue is the Board’s requirement that the pilot program allow customers to net meter larger systems – to 1 megawatt instead of only 500 kilowatts – up to 100% of the customer’s load. Alliant and MidAmerican filed pilot programs last fall to comply with this as well as several other requirements outlined by the Board. The Board’s stated goal has been to collect data and to expand renewable energy, consistent with Iowa statutes. 

MidAmerican proposed using a customer’s annual energy consumption to size a customer’s renewable energy system for net metering, and has since proposed additional flexibility on this approach to sizing the system. We are generally comfortable with MidAmerican’s proposal. 

However, Alliant departed with this best practice and proposed using a customer’s maximum annual kilowatt demand to limit the size of the net metered renewable energy system. To make matters worse, Alliant does not collect this data for the vast majority of customers, so Alliant proposed an opaque set of calculations to estimate customers’ maximum demand. Alliant did not file sufficient information for us and our partners to replicate their calculations. As a result, the impacts of their approach are uncertain, but could have a dramatic impact and significantly reduce renewable energy systems that can net meter. This, in turn, could undermine the economics of the residential solar market and substantially scale back the business solar market. 

We have requested that the Board reconsider Alliant’s proposed use of demand and instead use annual energy to size a net metered system, similar to MidAmerican’s approach. We have also requested a number of specific clarifications and changes in the Alliant approach that would make their approach more fair and result in renewable energy systems of a size more likely to meet a customer’s annual energy needs. 

The net metering pilot programs have other benefits, including clarification that renewable energy systems supported by all types of financing, including third party financing, are eligible to net meter; all customer classes can net meter against energy charges; and systems can net meter up to 1 megawatt (up from 500 kW in the current policy). The pilots will also be in place for the next 3 years, providing near-term certainty to the market. If the concerns with the Alliant approach can be fixed, we would expect to see pilot programs to accomplish what the Board outlined and many stakeholders have supported: collect data while expanding renewable energy. 

Our coalition for this petition included the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association, Vote Solar, Solar Energy Industries Association, Sierra Club, and the Winneshiek Energy District and can be found here

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About The Author

Nathaniel joined the Council in 2007. He researches and advocates for policies to expand solar, wind, transmission and energy efficiency, and coordinates the Council’s coalition of allies on energy and climate issues. Nathaniel currently serves on the Midwest Power Sector Collaborative, a s ... read more