Iowa Court Upholds Net Metering for Small Wind Producer

August 01, 2004

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Swecker family of Iowa, in an important case on "net metering" of electricity produced by small co-generating systems.

The family owns a 65-kW wind system. By using a single meter to measure inflow and outflow to and from the power grid, as the Sweckers wanted, the family could cut its power costs based on full retail prices. The local utility, Midland Power Cooperative, argued that two meters should be used, and the family's electricity bill should be reduced only by the amount of costs avoided by the company.

The Sweckers sought interconnection and damages for five years before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Iowa Utilities Board, the Iowa Supreme Court, and the Federal District Court. They claimed that Midland 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. FERC ruled in favor of the Sweckers in late 2003 (see Wind Energy Weekly #1072, 12 December, 2003).

The Iowa District Court held that 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 co-generator over a specified period of time. The state Supreme Court affirmed the finding. It ruled that separate billing is inconsistent with the interpretation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act and with federal regulations by FERC and the Iowa Utilities Board. This case, which may set a precedent for net metering across the state, was watched closely by independent power producers and the renewable energy community.

Source: July 30 edition of Wind Energy Weekly.