Guest Columnist

Iowa solar generation is at risk

Moxie Solar crews work to install and connect a solar energy system on the roof of Crescent Electric Supply Company in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. The solar panels will generate electricity roughly equal to the annual electrical consumption at the warehouse. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Moxie Solar crews work to install and connect a solar energy system on the roof of Crescent Electric Supply Company in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. The solar panels will generate electricity roughly equal to the annual electrical consumption at the warehouse. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Discussions at the Iowa capitol could result in severely altering, if not eliminating, private solar generation in our state. Solar generation by utilities is not being debated, however.

Critics of private solar generation have proposed charging higher fees to anyone that installs a solar array. I should clarify, though ... the largest critics of private generation are MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy.

Critics argue solar array owners are causing hardship to the grid by not paying their fair share. This argument, though, is not based on evidence, and is intended to diminish the ability to understand evidence currently being collected.

The argument that solar customers don’t pay is, at best, misinformed. At worst, it is malicious.

Solar customers indeed pay a monthly service fee, just like everyone else. They also pay taxes and franchise fees every month. And, before installing a solar array, a homeowner on Alliant or MidAmerican Energy will pay $250 before their array can be turned on.

What they don’t pay for is electricity they don’t buy from the utility company. It has the same effect as installing LED light bulbs, updating to Energy Star appliances, adding insulation, etc. The intent is to use less electricity. Period.

I’ve worked for a solar company in Iowa for almost five years. April 1 will be my five year anniversary (No fooling). Our company was founded more than a decade ago, and we’ve grown from seven employees in 2014 to nearly 70. In that time, we’ve adjusted to, and helped to educate our state, cities, counties, neighbors, and even utility companies on how private solar generation benefits all Iowans.

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We’ve lived through Net Metering restrictions, higher fees to connect, zoning and setback requirement changes, and the possibility of eliminating state tax credits (see the Iowa legislative agenda in 2018). All of this has led to a well-informed public, a more trusting relationship with utilities, and a significant impact on the Iowa economy.

The solar industry in Iowa employs more than 1,000 innovative, educated, involved and compassionate people. It’s estimated that for every $1 in state tax credits given, solar returns more than $4.

I have met with nearly two dozen legislators and Gov. Kim Reynolds to help them all understand the technology. I’ve helped homeowners, businesses, farmers, cities, counties, nonprofits, churches, and even a Bookmobile go solar. Thousands have benefited from our work together. Thousands more will benefit from the lasting economic and environmental benefits we’ve helped create.

The assault on private solar generation being waged at the Statehouse isn’t to help utility customers, as ads would like you to believe. It is only to eliminate private generation as a competitor to the utility companies. It is meant to weaken any attempt by Iowans to free themselves from higher utility costs. Without “barriers” such as solar on homes, utility companies will continue to be the only choice.

We can do better than that, Iowa. Please contact your Iowa Senate and House members and insist they oppose the “Sunshine Tax” legislation.

• Chris Hoffman is a business developer for Moxie Solar and member of the North Liberty City Council.

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