SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – You could call it a ‘power struggle.’ The city of Springfield is facing a $1.7 million lawsuit over renewable energy.
Back in 2009, City Utilities entered a 20-year agreement Smoky Hills Wind Project based in Salina, Kansas. Now, that company is suing the city. The civil suit was filed earlier this week, and it claims the city owes it money for energy that was “lost” between March 2012 and April 2013. In other words, the company wants the city to pay for wind energy it didn’t use. City officials say that’s not going to happen.
We sat down with local attorney Jason Coatney to explain discuss the details of the lawsuit. He says the company wants the city of Springfield and City Utilities to pay for the energy that was “lost” because it’s part of their contract, the Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement.
“They were told not to deliver the energy, and it appears that it was not delivered to the city of Springfield for a one-year period,” he says, “And they want their money for it, nonetheless.”
There’s another organization to take into account. Southwest Power Pool, Inc. is the agency that regulates the energy distribution to make sure companies like Smoky Hill Wind Project don’t overload the grid. According to the suit, they’re the ones that prevented the wind energy from getting to Springfield. The lawsuit explains the wind farm lost revenue because it wasn’t able to sell that energy to anyone else, and they want the city to make up for that loss.
“The dispute arises out of what are called ‘curtailments,’” says Coatney, “They have economic and emergency curtailments, and what that sounds like is, somebody says, ‘Stop producing energy cause we can’t use it at this moment in time.’”
These ‘curtailments’ could have happened for a variety of reasons, but the lawsuit does not list specific examples. Coatney says the result of the lawsuit will depend on the conditions of the contract between City Utilities and Smoky Hills Wind Project.
“They appear to have a Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement that says, ‘Even if you don’t take the product, you still have to pay us for it.’ That is an extraordinary contract if that’s what the city has entered into. And they may end up paying for things that we’re not using, and I’m sure that will upset the voters of Springfield,” says Coatney.
City Utilities officials deny these claims. Spokesperson Joel Alexander says CU has been in communication with the wind company, but they weren’t able to resolve the issue. He says they won’t comment any further until the issue is resolved.
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