Pratt’s city manager told the City Commission Monday night to beware of an offer of help from a handful of large local businesses as it drafts a net metering policy.


Pratt’s city manager told the City Commission Monday night to beware of an offer of help from a handful of large local businesses as it drafts a net metering policy.

Such a policy would regulate how the city handles any excess energy produced when local residents and businesses install wind or solar energy generators and connect them to the city’s electrical grid.

“They (the businesses) want to sell wind generators to put on our system at our expense,” City Manager Dave Howard told the Commission after a presentation by the businesses. “That’s what I have a problem with. We’re going to bring before you (a policy) that’s in the best interest of the City of Pratt.”

Net metering policies are mandatory for regulated utilities, but municipal utilities like the city and cooperatives like Ninnescah Rural Electric are exempt.

All utilities, however, are required to allow parallel generation service (PGS), which is similar to net metering but forces the utility to pay 150 percent of its average energy cost to owners when electricity flows back onto the city’s system from the privately owned wind generator.

The PGS?rule was written to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy. Net metering policies have a similar goal. And while the city will be able to jettison the 150 percent payback requirement of PGS if it adopts a net metering policy, the policy should be developed with the help of experts who don’t have a monetary interest in the outcome, Howard said.

Robert Johnson, an engineer who has worked in the energy industry in Kansas for decades, represented the businesses before the Commission. He took exception to the city manager’s characterization of the businesses’ proposal. He wouldn’t have made the proposal, he said, if his clients’ were trying to profit to the detriment of the city and its residents. Johnson was speaking on behalf of BTI?Pratt, Adams Electric and Plumbing, Stanion Wholesale Electric, Pratt Feeders and Doug Reh Chevrolet. They simply want an opportunity to offer input with the rest of the public, he said.

That opportunity won’t come soon, Howard said. A major upgrade of the city’s electrical system will command the Electric Department’s attention through April 2012. After that time, city staff will be able to complete a draft net metering policy that the Commission will consider. Input will be sought at public hearings.

Howard also noted that a net metering policy will probably have less impact on wind generators in Pratt than height restrictions in zoning regulations.