Solar Wins Big In Iowa, Next Battle is Wisconsin

Solar just won big in Iowa in the latest battle with utilities

Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of solar leasing, rejecting the utility’s (and state regulators) claim that only it can sell energy. In a typical leasing arrangement, the city of Dubuque signed a long-term power purchase agreement with Eagle Point Solar, which installed and owns the solar system. 

Alliant Energy Corp insists that Eagle Point acted like a public utility in signing a third party power purchase agreement, infringing on its monopoly in the service area. Iowa’s regulatory board agreed.

If the case ended there, solar installers would be subject to a gamut of regulations, increasing costs and complexity for the industry, says the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which represented a coalition of solar businesses and environmental groups in the appeal. 

Alliant Energy’s service area:

Solar Alliant Energy Service Area

"One of the important aspects of the case is that it says that the purpose of utility regulation is to protect the public, not the utility industry," Brad Klein, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, told Midwest Energy News. "Generating one’s own power "behind the meter" – meaning it doesn’t move through a utility’s distribution system – is a private transaction and should not be subject to interference by a utility."

On the East Coast, "conversations are beginning on how the electric utility industry transitions to a system that’s more decentralized. We want to see these conversations happen in Iowa and the Midwest. We want to work with Alliant on approaches that are win-win," says Klein.
represented a coalition of solar businesses and environmental groups in a case appealing an Iowa Utilities Board

Read our article, NY State Leads: Radical Changes Toward Distributed Energy.

Iowa gets close to 30% of its electricity from wind and is now moving to support the growth of solar. In May, the legislature voted – almost unanimously – to triple the solar tax credit and raise the rebate cap for residential and commercial projects.

What Will Happen in Wisconsin?

Amazingly, utility We Energies in Wisconsin is seeing how far it can go. Like so many utilities across the US, they want big surcharges from solar owners, and they even propose barring customers from leasing solar systems.

"The proposals in Wisconsin right now are some of the most damaging to the growth of the solar industry, Brad Klein, an attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, told Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. 

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