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Electricity plan accepted

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A legislative committee has accepted draft legislation that would allow people to spin their power meters backward by contributing electricity to the state's grid.

But legislators on the Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee said it may be years before the participation limits listed in the draft are met.

The draft requires utilities to make "net metering" of power available to customers who want to produce their own electricity and receive credit for excess power they make available to their utility.

Utah is the only Western state without a program that allows customers of a major utility to generate their own power that can be sold back for use on the utility's grid, although Utah's rural electric cooperatives have implemented a net metering program.

The draft legislation restricts the total generating capacity of customer systems to 0.1 percent of the utility's peak demand during 2001, and that half of the 0.1 percent figure be generated by renewable facilities such as wind, solar or hydro.

Mike Peterson, executive director of the Utah Rural Electric Association, said that based on the 2001 peak load for the state's rural cooperatives, combined generation contributions of program participants would be two megawatts — enough for probably 20 or so small systems.

Bruce Griswold, PacifiCorp's director of energy contracts, said PacifiCorp's participants could contribute 8.5 megawatts — a generation capacity of probably 850 small systems.

A megawatt is enough electricity to power about 500 typical homes.

Peterson wanted fuel cells to be added to the draft. Griswold said PacifiCorp supports the use of fuel cells, but he emphasized that no one wants to see participants contribute power produced by "small Honda generators."

The Utah draft legislation is similar to laws in other PacifiCorp-territory states. The committee accepted the draft as a committee bill despite a plea from Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, to wait until after an Oct. 1 wind energy conference in Salt Lake City.

Proponents of the legislation have said the net metering program would allow customers to reduce their power-buying costs and reduce utilities' needs to buy spot-market power during peak usage periods.


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com