Iowa utilities refuse to net meter TPO solar arrays, testing state supreme court ruling
- Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy, two of Iowa’s dominant electricity providers, are refusing to net meter solar installations financed in third party ownership (TPO) arrangements, challenging assumptions in a 2014 Iowa Supreme Court decision that upheld TPO deals.
- Alliant, supported by MidAmerican, is refusing to provide net metering renumeration to solar arrays for the City of Ashbury installed by Eagle Point Solar, Midwest Energy News reports. The utilities argue that Iowa Utilities Board rulings limit net metering to customers who buy all their power from the utilities, while in TPO deals the customer buys part of their electricity from the solar installer, which owns the panels.
- The Asbury TPO installation is Eagle Point’s first since the Supreme Court decision. Original plans called for two arrays — one 230 kW system for city hall, and one 356 kW facility to supply 90% of the power for the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Alliant’s refusal to net meter the facilities pushed the city to abandon the larger array.
Eagle Point, the City of Asbury, and others are confirming that net metering is crucial to the TPO solar value proposition, and other installers and customers are watching closely.
Solar plans for four schools in Iowa Falls by Novel Energy went into reconsideration as a result of the Ashbury debate. The 140 kW Johnson County solar installation was scaled down to 87 kW because the original projected 25-year savings went from $275,000 to $152,000.
Alliant and MidAmerican are “trying to make the same distinction that the court rejected,” according to attorney Josh Mandelbaum of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the firm that argued the Supreme Court case. “It doesn’t make a difference if a project is leased or paid for outright or paid for through a (power-purchase agreement),” he added, and “certainly the spirit (of the ruling) is being violated.”
Alliant told Midwest Energy News that it is happy to buy power from all solar arrays and resell it to customers, but that it will not pay retail rates for such electricity. MidAmerican similarly says net metering is only for customers who buy all their power from the utility. Solar advocates say the utilities are inviting a court case, and state regulators have yet to weigh in on complaints.
- Midwest Energy News Iowa utilities: No net metering for third-party solar projects