Fearing unregulated power generation and transmission because of federal deregulation, the city approved an ordinance Tuesday governing such activities.
But a Brigham Young University official fears that will only hurt other entities.Robert Rhoads, utilities engineer at BYU's physical plant, said, "We are concerned about the council hastily passing an ordinance without the solicitation of input."
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to accept the ordinance, which regulates the generation or transmission of electric energy by entities other than the city. The ordinance also includes regulations for the times when the city must purchase, transmit or distribute electricity from other entities.
BYU legal counsel and other attorneys have said the ordinance's attempt to license those involved in power generation pre-empts federal and state laws, Rhoads said.
But City Attorney Gary Gregerson said the Provo utilities department is not regulated by the state Public Service Commission and there is a gap in federal and state regulations.
"This ordinance is to fill the gap controlled by us," he said. "We have a very large investment in the utilities department, and a significant interest in the safety of the citizens."
Gregerson said the city has discussed and reviewed the ordinance for two years and "it is imperative that we get something in place to protect our interests as deregulation continues."
There has been a concern that the ordinance was too vague, but Gregerson said it was drafted that way to be flexible as federal and state laws change.
"What may seem vague is wise in looking at each specific instance and period of time. This allows a person to come in and make his case. Costs are shifting all the time and impact us differently now."
The ordinance does not include regulation on emergency generators.
Gregerson added: "We don't intend to regulate the supplies procedure. Only so we know what goes on in the city when someone comes in to get a license."
The ordinance is particularly important to the city because Heritage Mountain Resort is interested in installing a water line to run down the mountain and into a hydroelectric facility.
The resort would use the electricity to run the park. The balance would then be sold back to the city, but Provo wants to make sure everything is done right and that they won't be obligated to buy power for more than the weighted cost.
Councilman Steve Clark said, "I think we are walking a fine line here. We've got to make it clear that we are not inhibiting the market place. We are purely looking at this for health and safety and the impact on the system."
Mayor Joe Jenkins agreed: "We are not trying to stop anyone from generating their own power. We are not taxing them out of the market, but we also have to protect our investment."
Rhoads asked the council what the urgency is in passing the ordinance and if BYU was part of the problem.
"BYU is not the problem, the problem is deregulation," Jenkins said. "This is an area that is not covered and we have to make sure something is on the books because deregulation is coming rapidly."
But Rhoads said passing the ordinance is "like builidng a dam before the flood occurs. Where will it occur? You should table this until you get additional input."
Clark said, "We will work with you as we go down the line. I don't think anything in here inhibits BYU to do anything."
BYU presently buys one-fifth of the power that comes to the city.