Government

Energy-efficiency advocates call for Reynolds veto

Bill 'good for utilities, bad for consumers'

Amanda Zwanziger, a member of the Iowa Energy Plan working group, calls on Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday to veto a bill that changes utility regulation and energy-efficiency funding in Iowa. S (James Q. Lynch/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
Amanda Zwanziger, a member of the Iowa Energy Plan working group, calls on Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday to veto a bill that changes utility regulation and energy-efficiency funding in Iowa. S (James Q. Lynch/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

DES MOINES — Energy efficiency advocates are calling on Gov. Kim Reynolds to put her “priorities over politics” and veto legislation they say will result in higher energy costs for Iowans, reduce energy- efficiency incentive funding and subject solar customers to discriminatory rates and practices.

“I don’t know why lawmakers would put her in this situation,” Amanda Zwanziger, a member of the governor’s Iowa Energy Plan working group, said Wednesday about Senate File 2311, which majority Republican lawmakers passed and sent to the governor.

The bill, she said, does the opposite of the plan’s call for increasing energy efficiency and decreasing the operating costs of buildings,

Zwanziger said she is holding out hope of a veto because, after working on the Iowa Energy Plan that Reynolds has praised, “I know where her priorities lie, and it’s been in encouraging growth in the energy-efficiency space.”

Reynolds told reporters Wednesday afternoon that she and her team, including economic development director Debi Durham, will review the bill and help the governor make a decision.

The bill updates energy-efficiency programs, reducing the amount energy companies collect from Iowans while maintaining cost-effective programs, such as rebates and energy assessments, to help customers manage their energy use, according to Alliant Energy, which supported its passage.

If the bill is signed into law, Zwanziger said, “We can say goodbye to our goal of being a national energy leader” as well as some of the lowest electric rates in the country.

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Reynolds in her January Condition of the State speech called for Iowa “continuing to lead the nation in innovative energy ideas.”

The Iowa Environmental Council has warned the bill will cut more than $100 million from energy-efficiency programs and cost Iowa ratepayers more than $200 million as utilities build more transmission lines, more generating plants, and use more fuel.

Emily Rice, business development director at The Energy Group, said, “This will impact all consumers but will disproportionately impact rural communities and at-risk consumers like the elderly, disabled and low-income,” she said. “This bill is good for utilities. But damaging for Iowa’s consumers and communities.”

The legislation also puts as many as 21,000 Iowa jobs at risk, Rice said. Those are the people who weatherize and retrofit homes and businesses to be more energy-efficient.

Keith Denner, president of Professional Property Management, said the improvements funded by the energy-efficiency incentives allow businesses to reinvest the savings in employees, services that provide a “ripple effect through the economy.”

He estimated the company, which has about 60 employees, has spent $10 million on energy-efficiency improvements, a small part of which was covered by the rebates.

The legislation before Reynolds would restore a 2 percent cap on energy-efficiency programs for electricity and 1.5 percent for natural gas utilities. Bill supporters call that a “hidden tax” on consumers.

Alliant supported the bill because it will “help Iowa families and businesses save money, maintain the state’s leadership in renewable energy, and provide more opportunities for business growth and job creation, according to Anne Lenzen, Alliant’s director of regulatory affairs.

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The legislation includes regulatory updates, such as an optional forward-looking test year to match customer benefits with energy investments, a transmission tool that promotes efficiency, an improved process for extending natural gas service to underserved areas and the repowering of wind facilities to extend their useful life, she said.

The bill also updates energy-efficiency programs, reducing the amount energy companies collect from Iowans while maintaining cost-effective programs, such as rebates and energy assessments, to help customers manage their energy use, Lenzen said.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement said Reynolds must choose between Iowa consumers and a “handful of corporate power utilities and fossil fuel and energy interests that have contributed over $1 million to her campaigns over the last several year.”

The group attempted to confront Reynolds outside a Wednesday morning speaking engagement, chanting “kill the bill.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; James.Lynch@TheGazette.com

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