A bill that one local senator described as ‘hogwash’ has passed in the Iowa Senate. Senate File 583, which allows utilities to impose additional monthly charges on solar users, has passed after a mostly partisan vote. with all but three Republicans voting in its favor and one lone Democrat joining the Republican majority.
Interestingly enough, other renewable energy producers, specifically biofuel plants, are exempt from the proposed bill. Noting that, Democrats in the Senate attempted to add an amendment to the bill which would exclude farmers who chose to add solar to their farms from the charge, but that was ultimately shot down.
Outside of the job loss that this bill could very well lead to, that farming amendment could prove to be critical. The farming and solar industries have established quite a symbiotic relationship. Farmland has become an ideal location for large-scale ground-mounted solar, as farmers profit off of the leases signed on their previously-unused land, as well as helping with the maintenance of the project by having their cattle graze the brush surrounding the panels. On the small scale, solar has been helpful in helping farmers reduce their monthly electricity bills as, as you can guess, farms are large users of energy, and being able to generate one’s own energy can provide considerable bill relief.
And, to quickly go back to that job loss mention, SEIA reports that there are only 844 solar jobs in the state of Iowa, meaning that any action which compromises these jobs could well be incredibly detrimental to the state’s solar industry.
The bill does not establish one ultimate method for the fee to be enacted, but instead gives outlines for three different billing options. These include:
- A minimum infrastructure charge rate structure whereby the private generation customer pays a minimum amount each month, or the private generation customer’s applicable standard electric service bill, whichever is higher;
- A multi-part rate structure whereby rates applicable to the customer include, at a minimum, a fixed basic service charge, an energy charge designed to recover variable costs, and a monthly demand charge designed to ensure that the private generation customer pays for fixed electric utility infrastructure costs;
- A buy-all and sell-all rate structure whereby the private generation facility’s output is measured separately from the private generation customer’s consumption. All electricity consumed shall be purchased from the electric utility and all electricity generated shall be sold to the electric utility on a monthly basis.
This bill is based on the “cost shift” myth that utilities have pushed for years. This myth claims that solar users are essentially leeching on current electric utility infrastructure. Under this assumption, houses that generate their own electricity and trade excess back to the utility are placing an unfair burden on those who do not by not paying a “fair share” of the cost to maintain utility infrastructure.
This claim has been roundly debunked in state after state, with studies commissioned by legislatures and regulators repeatedly finding that rooftop solar under net metering is a net benefit to other ratepayers (these state-level studies were captured in a Brookings Institute meta-study). This is due to solar’s ability to “shave” peak load, to reduce the amount of capacity needed on the system, and also to minimize use of power lines.
But to assume that all, or even most laws are passed with every aspect of contribution and consequence reviewed and considered is naïve.
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A scary effect of such action is the cover it gives to other utilities to try similar things. Here in TN, TVA — a federal entity not subject to any state control or much federal restraint — has not only cancelled all of its solar and energy efficiency programs, it is imposing an increase on its power distributors on up to $30/month for every residential customer, a fee the PD’s are likely to pass through. TVA’s purported ultimate goal that a customer’s bill will be 70% fixed charges!
Unlike IA, no utility fee in TN may discriminate against a customer that installs energy efficiency equipment. Even so, one power distributor in Nashville is imposing a $300 fee on customers who install batteries, likely with their solar system.
Nevertheless, one power distributor for Nashville is imposing a $300 charge on residential customers who include a battery in the solar equipment.
First of all, this is a business-as-usual topic that should be for the state’s public service commission to decide and should NOT be in a piece of legislation. This is simply an effort to circumvent the state public service commission because they have friendly legislators in office.
They tried to do the same thing here in Utah four years ago, as a rate case in front of the Utah Public Service Commission and it failed. A monopoly power company can not single out a class of users and impose a specific and different monthly rate fee. As far as I know, this kind of monthly rate fee would be unprecedented, as it opens a can of worms for a monopoly power company to propose different rates on other “category” of users.
Then our monopoly power company tried to slide it into a piece of legislation and a watchdog group caught it. Our capital building was inundated with protest and it was removed from the bill.
If Iowa grassroot groups organize and get their citizens to turn out, they should be able to defeat it.
The sad thing about solar is it has a federal tax credit to help incentivize it, only to have it either devalued or have rate-case obstacles being thrown at the wall to see what might stick to de-incentivize it.
Until solar gets either a state mandating renewables by a certain year or a carbon tax credit by the feds, this nickel and dime game by monopoly companies will continue to destabilize the solar market.
Here in Michigan DTE is up to the same old games…. trying to monopolize the effort to go green and by making certain that their pockets stay lined with our money.
1. They have no problem taking credit for the size of my rooftop solar system to meet the non-existent Michigan Government requirement to meet go green goals.
2. They do not pay rooftop solar owners for any residual power produced; they allow us to bank it for use on days when the sun is not producing.
3. In my case “DTE” is directly responsible for limiting the size of all residential rooftop solar system within it’s customer base…. knowing they would be working hard at changing the rate and usage charges…..this is fundamentally unfair and will result in a class-action lawsuit because they exercised jurisdiction and limited the ultimate size of all residential homeowner solar systems in terms of how many Kilowatts our systems are capable of producing.
4. DTE cannot stand the fact that residential rooftop solar owners can become independent from them and not have to pay them except for a metering charge.
5. If they (DTE) is successful in manipulating the rates and charges, I will install batteries and go completely off the grid…. they can come pick “their” power line up off my lawn!
We must take on the utilities and fight back with all our might to preserve our right to choose where our power comes from….they do not own the sun!
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