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Solar Power Industry Growing in Iowa, But Will It Continue?

A solar powered park bench at the Iowa State Fairgrounds

Proponents of solar energy in Iowa are worried about a proposal under study in both chambers of the legislature. They say it would deregulate the rate-making process for utility companies by allowing them to change rates for various classes of customers without receiving Iowa Utility Board approval. Former legislator Tyler Olson, now president of SiteGen Solar in Cedar Rapids, says that move would harm the state’s growing solar industry.

"It would really devastate it. It would have serious affects, if utilities were allowed to charge solar customers more than other customers without going through that review process," says Olson. 

A spokesman for Alliant Energy says the study bill does not allow investor-owned utilities to circumvent the utilities board in rate cases. He says it would allow new products to reach the market faster by avoiding regulatory slowdowns. 

"I think what's most important is for everyone to take a careful read of what's in the bill and what it actually says," says Justin Foss, a senior communications partner with Alliant Energy.  "A lot of what's in the bill reflects policies that currently exist as well." 

During this hour of River to River, Olson talks with host Ben Kieffer. Josh Byrnes, a retired state lawmaker and now general manager of Osage Municipal Utilities, and Andy Johnson, executive director of the Winnishiek Energy District, also join the conversation. 

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River