- The Iowa Senate last month passed a bill that would allow electric utilities to charge solar customers new fees, though the proposal still faces an uncertain path in the House amid opposition from renewable advocates.
- Senate File 583 was approved in March on a 28-19 vote, but has stalled in the lower chamber over questions about its potential impact on the solar industry.
- While MidAmerican Energy maintains solar customers shift costs to those without panels, the renewables industry remains adamant that residential PV is a net-benefit for the grid. MidAmerican says its average non-solar residential customer pays roughly $328 annually to access the grid while private solar generators avoid some or all of those costs.
Iowa lawmakers are debating whether rate-regulated utilities should be able to charge solar customers additional fees. While votes have so far been largely along party lines — just three Republicans voted against SF 538 — it is not clear the House will move forward on it.
House File 669 has not been brought up for debate, with local media reporting that often means lawmakers lack the votes to approve it.
Adam Wright, MidAmerican Energy president and CEO, called the proposal "common sense legislation focused on keeping costs low and affordable for everyone."
In a statement, Wright said the SOLAR Act "makes fair changes that ensure customers who don't want or can't afford a rooftop system don't pay for another customer's decision."
Iowa gets more than a third of its energy from wind, but far less from solar — less than 1%, according to 2017 Energy Information Administration data. Adding more solar is possible, but MidAmerican says it must be done sustainably.
"Growth is possible when policies allow all customers to benefit from renewable energy," Wright said. "If this legislation can fix the cost-shift, then solar energy can have an even brighter future in Iowa, just like wind has experienced in the past decade."
The proposal would not eliminate tax credits or net metering, and would exempt current solar energy customers from the new fee.
Opponents of the legislation say it could add a "sunshine tax" of $300/year for customers who install solar panels. The bills "will enable utilities to have a complete monopoly of the sun," according to the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association, which opposes the bill.
MidAmerican is the "main instigator of this legislation," according to the group, and it has "never presented sufficient evidence to justify these changes to the experts at the Iowa Utilities Board."