Change could have impact on Iowa’s solar energy

A new solar energy surcharge would have solar users paying for use of the power grid, but opponents fear the effect it may have on the burgeoning industry. SUBMITTED PHOTO

A controversial bill making its way through the Iowa legislature could have a big impact on Iowa's solar energy industry.

House File 669 would allow the state's electric utilities to charge a fee on residents and businesses that utilize solar energy generation to supplement their regular electric use.

As it currently stands, residents that equip their homes with solar panels are able to enter into an agreement with their utility company to sell their excess power back into the electric grid. If a solar-powered home generates more electricity in a month than they ultimately end up using, their monthly energy charge is zeroed out, and the excess is credited to their next bill. In practical terms, this means that a solar-powered house may pay nothing for energy for several months out of the year.

This situation has led to utilities like Mid-American Energy to push for a way to charge solar users for their use of the electric grid.

"Because of the way the policy is set, those customers aren't paying for the use of the grid," says Tina Hoffman, Communications Director with Mid-American Energy.

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