Iowa lawmakers, advocates reach compromise on controversial solar bill


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The Solar Act would promote the viability of private solar panel ownership in Iowa (via flickr). 

Julia Poska | March 10, 2020

Iowa legislators have reached a compromise on last year’s controversial “Sunshine Tax” bill. The Iowa Capital Dispatch reported Friday that both legislative chambers have unanimously approved bill versions of the“Solar Act,” which are awaiting Gov. Reynolds’ approval.

According to the dispatch, the act would allow owners of home, business or farm solar arrays to continue selling excess energy to utility companies at the retail rate. Last spring, a controversial bill proposed an extra $300 annual fee for solar customers who sell excess energy, meant to cover the cost of using the electric grid. Critics said the fee would make it much harder for private owners to pay off their investment into solar, essentially killing the largely private solar industry in Iowa.

The new version also orders an independent cost-benefit analysis of solar power in Iowa, meant to make sure all parties pay their fair share. Following the study, the Iowa Utilities Board would make a recommendation for reasonable billing methods. Existing solar owners would be immune to recomended changes in billing methods.

Iowa legislature considers bill to encourage efficiency in rental units


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Older rental properties are often prone to inefficiencies leading to wasted resources and high utility costs (via Creative Commons).

Julia Poska | February 25, 2020

A bill proposed this month in the Iowa House of Representatives would increase transparency around energy efficiency and utility costs in rental units.

The bill, HSB 635, states that landlords of properties containing at least 12 units would need to disclose average utility costs in writing to prospective tenants, prior to issuing a lease.

Properties with low rent are often older and may have structural issues–like leaky windows or dripping pipes— which can lead to wasted resources and higher utility bills for tenants.  The Iowa Environmental Council is encouraging support of the bill, saying it would create incentives for more efficient rental properties.

 

Environmental Group Concerned Over Legislation


Photo by Born1945; Flickr

An environmental advocacy group criticized legislation advancing in the Iowa House that would make water-quality data collected in connection with a statewide clean water effort confidential.

To learn more about the bill and its language, head over to the Omaha Herald

6 Ways the Newly Passed Farm Bill Will Impact Iowa


Photo courtesy of Brandon Hirsch, Flickr.

The new farm bill, passed by Senate last week will affects Iowans in several ways, from boosting access to locally grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets to protecting wetlands and prairies, the Des Moines Register said.

Here are six ways the farm bill impacts our state directly:

  1. Farmers win safety net
  2. Local food gets boost
  3. Land, water find protections
  4. Food stamps status quo
  5. Beginning farmers get help
  6. Research

To read more about the bill and Iowa, click here.

On the Radio: Iowa senate considers feed-in tariffs


The Iowa State House. Photo by  w4nd3rl0st, Flickr.
The Iowa State House. Photo by w4nd3rl0st, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses a bill to establish a statewide feed-in tariff.

A proposed bill could add incentives for farmer-owned wind installations.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously passed a bill to establish a statewide feed-in tariff for small wind projects on agricultural land. This means electric utilities must purchase power from the small wind installations at a guaranteed price for up to ten years.

Now that the bill has passed through the committee, it can be voted on this year or next year by the full Senate. Three states and many countries around the world already use feed-in tariffs. In Germany, feed-in tariffs are believed to have played a major role in increasing renewable energy. Iowa would become the first Midwest state to adopt such a policy.

For more information on the bill, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

New legislation calls for double-fencing around deer farms


Photo by jonnnnnn, Flickr.
Photo by jonnnnnn, Flickr.

New legislation aims to reduce the threat Chronic Wasting Disease poses to Iowa’s deer herd.

Senate File 59 would increase the height requirement for fences surrounding Iowa deer farms from eight feet to ten feet, and would also require an additional 10-foot secondary fence.

“It’s a long-term disease you don’t solve in a couple of days,” said Dale Garner, Iowa Department of Natural Resources wildlife bureau chief. “When you get into this, you’re in for the long haul.”

For more information, read the full article at The Gazette.

Controversial nuclear bill revived


Duane Arnold Energy Center, Iowa's lone nuclear source.

A controversial bill that outlines steps for MidAmerican Energy to build a nuclear power plant in Iowa was revived and approved today by a Senate subcommittee.

The bill, House File 561, failed to advance through the Senate last year.

Critics were angered by the legislation’s sudden resurrection.

“The nuclear industry and MidAmerican Energy specifically would have us believe that nuclear power is clean, safe and cheap when in actuality it is very dangerous and expensive,” said Mike Carberry, an Iowa member of Friends of the Earth, an environmental group based in Washington, D.C.

Advocates of the bill argued that this legislation will help Iowa avoid a potential energy crisis by diversifying the state’s energy sources.

“This bill represents just another piece of that journey to create a more diverse energy sources for our citizens of the state of Iowa,” said John Gilliland, senior vice president of government relations of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

The bill will be considered by a full committee on Tuesday, and must pass both the Senate and the House before it can be signed by Gov. Terry Branstad.

For more information, read the full article at the Des Moines Register.