The Gazette  

As the Cedar River is expected to reach a crest of 18.6 feet Monday into Tuesday, the National Weather Service will be updating the forecast and current readings every hour. You can monitor these levels with this map.

Government

Iowa solar energy proponents see irony in legislative proposals

A solar panel is seen at a solar array that will supply power to the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A solar panel is seen at a solar array that will supply power to the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Matt Edwards wishes the Iowa Legislature’s left hand knew what its right hand was doing.

Edwards was at the Capitol on Wednesday to speak during a pair of subcommittee hearings — one on a plan to double the state solar tax credit and another that would impose fees of about $300 a year on solar customers to cover the cost of their use of the electric grid.

“The irony is not lost on us,” said Edwards, controller at CB Solar, a solar equipment supplier in Des Moines. From his vantage point, House File 476, which would increase the state tax credit from $5 million to $10 million, will help more businesses, farmers and homeowners who want to install solar panels to control utility costs or reduce their carbon footprint.

However, that wouldn’t offset proposed changes in net metering that are moving forward in both House Study Bill 185 and Senate Study Bill 1201, according to Christopher Rants, who lobbies for the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association.

Those changes will make small-scale solar power generation “economically unfeasible,” he said.

Edwards told lawmakers at a Senate subcommittee meeting that “the math just doesn’t work” for his company’s 10 employees and contractors if legislation is passed that would impose a fee on solar customers.

The utilities companies told lawmakers that customers who are private generators use the grid without paying for it. That leaves other customers to shoulder the cost of building and maintaining the grid. The utilities are advocating a cost-of-service system so everyone using the infrastructure system shares in that cost.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Like a House subcommittee Tuesday, the Senate subcommittee moved the bill to the full Commerce Committee for consideration.

Since the Iowa solar tax credit was established in 2012, it has awarded $26 million in non-refundable credits in support of $211 million of investment — an eight-to-one return on the state’s investment, Rants told the House Ways and Means subcommittee.

HF 476 is “a good bill for solar, but it probably won’t do much” if there’s a “sunshine tax” being sought by utilities and business groups, Edwards said. He called those bills “anti-private generation.”

Erin Murphy of the Des Moines bureau contributed to this story

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.