MPUC ruling against People's Co-op affects all electric utilities

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MPUC ruling against People's Co-op affects all electric utilities

August 14, 2015

On Thursday, August 13, 2015 the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission took up the complaint of a People’s Electric Cooperative customer challenging the $5 per month charge imposed by People’s to pay for fixed costs associated with the customer’s 10kW interconnected wind turbine.

By a vote of 4-0 the commission resolved the dispute in favor of the customer, ruling that People’s failed to demonstrate that the fee meets the criteria of Minnesota Statutes Section 216B.164. It also found People’s to be in violation of Minnesota Rules Parts 7835.0300 and 7835.0400 for failing to file the proposed fee changes in 2014.

In addition, the commission ordered PUC staff to open a docket and ask all investor-owned, cooperative and municipal electric utilities serving in the state whether they apply a charge to recover fixed costs from generating customers and, if they do, in which docket the commission approved the charge and to ask for other related information that the staff deems appropriate.

Provisions of the commission’s order relating to a separate generic docket to analyze all fixed cost charges were developed by commissioners in response to People’s’ contention that all investor-owned utilities charge for fixed costs and that the commission has not objected since they began doing so in 2010.

Attorney Harold LeVander, representing People’s, stated that if the commission is satisfied with the IOUs’ fees, it should also allow the People’s fee to stand. In her original proposed order provision for a generic docket, Commission Chair Beverley Jones Heydinger suggested that all IOUs and co-ops should file information to allow staff to determine whether or not they apply charges to net metered customers that do not apply to other customers.

A spokesperson for the Alliance for Solar Choice asked the commissioners to make the same requirement of all municipal utilities as well, and newest Commissioner John Tuma echoed the sentiment.

Bill Black, representing MMUA, explained to the commission that few, if any, municipal utilities charge such fees and suggested that the order could call for only utilities who do have such fees to file them and to keep in mind that municipal utilities whose governing bodies have adopted similar, consistent rules are not required to file with the state PUC the type of tariffs in question. The final rule will allow utilities that do not charge extra fixed cost fees to generating customers to simply state as much. However, they may still be required to file answers to PUC questions seeking additional related information.

Those addressing the commission also included the complainant, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Minnesota Rural Electric Association, the “Clean Energy Organization” (Fresh Energy, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy), the Minnesota Solar Industry Association and Dairyland Power Cooperative.

 

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