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New Fees For Solar Panel Owners Advance Out Of House Committee

solar panels
Warren McKenna
Farmers Electric Coop
Supporters of the bill say utility customers who don’t have solar panels are subsidizing utility infrastructure for Iowans with solar panels. Opponents say it will hurt the growth of solar energy in the state.";

Utility companies would be allowed to charge an additional fee to customers who use solar panels to generate electricity under a bill that advanced out of an Iowa House committee Monday.

Rep. Gary Mohr, R-Bettendorf, said customers who don’t have solar panels are subsidizing utility infrastructure for Iowans with solar panels. 

“The idea is basically if you use it, you pay for it,” Mohr said. “If you use the energy grid—either buying utility power from a utility company or sending it back to the utility from solar energy—you pay for use of the grid.”

People with solar panels pay for electricity from utility companies at times when there is not a lot of sun. During sunny times of the year, people with solar panels send electricity back to utilities.

Lobbyists for Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy told lawmakers the new fees are needed to help pay for maintenance of utility infrastructure.

Democrats on the House Commerce Committee voted against the proposal.

Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, said the additional cost might discourage Iowans from going solar.

“I may not have made that decision to put those 90 panels on my roof at my business,” Forbes said. “I think there’s going to be a drastic reduction in the number of jobs in this industry within the state of Iowa.”

The proposal would apply to new solar customers. Iowans who already have solar panels wouldn’t be affected.

Business groups and electric cooperatives are also in favor of the bill. Environmental and renewable energy groups, the solar power industry and the Iowa Pork Producers Association are opposed.

The bill can now be considered by the full Iowa House of Representatives.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter