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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Comments on “Solar Wins Big In Iowa, Next Battle is Wisconsin”

  1. Annette McGee Rasch

    It’s a good time to have this battle in Wisconsin.

    On the regulatory side, while contending with an administration headed by Scott Walker is a drag; still, the huge protests in Madison a few years back left a healthy activism energy stirring closer to the surface. The public could be highly engaged on this issue. A smart campaign would gear up in Madison, Milwaukee and some of the communities in SW part of the state.

    Too bad Wisconsin’s Public Intervenor Office was eliminated some 15 years ago. My home state has suffered terribly under the hands of a scary series of republican governors carrying water for big corporations, traditional utilities, the Koch Brothers…

    It’s not surprising that We Energies is pushing as hard as it can in respect to huge surcharges and customer restrictions. One of the many battles for the political soul of the state. But Wisconsin’s got some deeper green (albeit older) roots, and a lot of practical people who will chafe at these obstacles to affordable solar power thrown up by the power-hogs, if they know about it.

    Let the fight for Solar Power Freedom in Wisconsin help heat the coals!

  2. CK

    Last year two assemblymen proposed to deregulate solar in WI so people wanting to put panels on their roofs would not be treated as utilities. One was a democrat, the other a republican. Mark Neumann, former republican congressman and avowed conservative owns a solar company in Wisconsin. What is really “scary” is when people line up on a particular side without thinking.

  3. Annette McGee Rasch

    Exceptions to the rule are always nice; but larger numbers of republican politicians still swim in the other direction. Hope that changes.


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