Iowa, already a major stronghold for wind power, may soon see a jump in solar power as legislators consider the SOLAR Act, which would expand solar power in the state and has the support of Warren Buffet controlled MidAmerican Energy Co. However, the legislation, House Study Bill 185 would impose fees on new rooftop solar owners, which could slow rooftop solar growth in the state down.
In Iowa, 37 percent of the state’s electric generation came from wind power in 2017, according to Energy Information Administration. However, less than about 1 percent of its electricity came from solar power.
MidAmerican said solar could be its next major renewable energy source if the Solar Options Lead to Affordable Renewables (SOLAR) Act is enacted into law in the state. The company said it would eliminate cost shifting from those with rooftop solar to other customers and gives them more options for connecting solar to the electric grid.
Currently, rooftop solar customers enjoy lower to no grid connection fees, while MidAmerican said the average residential customer pays $328 a year in grid fees. Moreover rooftop solar is expected to grow in the state, which MidAmerican said could shift more costs to customers without solar in the future.
“Growth is possible when policies allow all customers to benefit from renewable energy. 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,” Adam Wright, said MidAmerican Energy president and CEO. “Common sense legislation focused on keeping costs low and affordable for everyone provides the best opportunity to grow solar in Iowa.”
Imposing such fees on rooftop solar owners also serves as a disincentive to putting solar on a rooftop as the reduction of fees helps offset the up-front costs of solar and allows the solar owner to reduce the payback period for going solar. Utilities have tried to reduce such fees for years with mixed results, but efforts are increasing.
“We ensure the electric grid has reliable service 24/7 for all of our customers, including private generation customers who are super-users because they both receive and send energy through the grid,” Wright contended. “We must not allow the cost-shift that exists to negatively impact our other customers. Private solar customers use the grid for all but about 40 seconds of an average day because they’re almost always either receiving or sending energy.”
The new legislation would not eliminate any tax credits or net metering policies in the state. Those policies help further reduce or cover the costs of going solar.Tweet