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NIPSCO wants to expand homemade energy programs; change net metering and new feed-in tariff July 20, 2010

Posted by Laura Arnold in Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Uncategorized.
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By Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com (219) 933-3326  | Posted: Monday, July 19, 2010 2:04 pm

NIPSCO wants to expand one program and add another to allow more customers operating wind, solar and other renewable energy generators to “sell” electricity back to the utility.

The utility has filed a request with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to significantly expand its net metering program to all customers. It also wants to increase the maximum allowable generation for an individual generator to 100 kilowatts from the current limit of 10 kilowatts.
“It is our goal that the expansion of these programs will result in sustainable renewable electricity generation available to all NIPSCO customers in the coming years,” said Jimmy Staton, NIPSCO chief executive officer.

Under net metering, customers with their own renewable energy producing sources remains hooked up to NIPSCO’s electric lines. During months in which they don’t produce enough power for their own needs, they buy the remaining electricity they need from the utility. But during months in which they overproduce, they are given a bill credit for any electricity they send back into NIPSCO’s system.
In addition to the net metering program, NIPSCO also is asking the IURC for permission to institute a renewable feed-in electric rate, where renewable power producers would actually be paid cash for any power they produce and feed into the utility’s system.

The feed-in electric rate would apply to small renewable home generators as well as commercial and industrial size projects of up to 5 megawatts. That is 500 times the power production allowed under the current net metering program.
The current net metering program is only available to residential customers and schools. Under NIPSCO’s proposal, small businesses and all other customer classes could participate.
The program has plenty of room for growth. Since the IURC approved NIPSCO’s original net metering program five years ago, only 21 customers have signed up, according to the utility’s most recent count.

Although net metering programs and home-grown energy can inspire initial excitement among customers, some of that excitement can wear off once they realize the cost.

For example, a 10 kilowatt wind turbine can cost around $30,000. There are also installation charges and insurance coverage that are required.
The feed-in electric rate would be for those who might be thinking of their generating more as a business. For most renewable sources NIPSCO would actually pay more for the electricity than it currently charges its own customers.

NIPSCO wants to cap the feed-in electric program at 30 megawatts at least through the life of the pilot program it is proposing, which would end at the end of 2013. That means once all producers combined are churning out that much electricity, no one else would be allowed in.
 The utility also wants to cap the net metering program once customers with a total of 6 megawatts of generating capacity are signed up.

In all, NIPSCO believes enough power could be produced under the two programs to power 10,000 average Indiana homes.

NIPSCO recently became a member of the Indiana Renewable Energy Association.

A copy of petition NIPSCO filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in Cause No. 43922 can be found here.

Cause_43922_NM_FiT

For more details on NIPSCO’s proposal, send an email to: Laura.Arnold@indianaDG.org.

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