Standing up for Iowa’s clean energy efforts

Kate Marlowe
Jason Maresca and Corey Chase of Clinton-area-based Independent Energy Systems install solar panels March 20, 2015, near The Canticle, home of the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton. The Sisters hope the solar panels will help them to be good stewards of the earth by reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Three of Iowa’s bishops, including Bishop Thomas Zinkula, have signed on to a letter encouraging continued support for Iowa’s clean energy leadership by Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst.

The letter, dated June 10, states that “Iowa has long been a blueprint for other states to follow, but our leadership is at risk with a federal issue under consideration at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).”

At issue is a petition of the New England Ratepayers Association asking FERC to assert jurisdiction over state net metering programs (Docket #EL20-42-000). The bishops and other Iowa faith leaders request that elected officials “stand up for Iowa’s right to control our own energy destiny.”

Iowa has led the nation on energy innovation for years, establishing the first Renewable Portfolio Standard, showing the country the way on wind energy development and passing groundbreaking solar policy, according to Iowa Interfaith Power & Light.

These initiatives benefit Iowa farmers, homeowners and businesses, the letter writers say. “Iowa is one of the largest producers of clean energy in the country and we’ve benefited tremendously in the form of much needed local tax revenue and jobs. However, our state’s authority to determine our energy future is now at risk of being erased” by the FERC filing, the letter states.

FERC’s approval of the New England Ratepayers’ request would place net metering in the hands of the federal government, which Iowa Interfaith Power & Light says would discourage homeowners, farmers and various entities from engaging in clean energy projects.

Net metering allows customers who install distributed generation facilities, like solar, to offset the electricity that they would otherwise purchase from the utility with electricity generated from their own facility. This incentive allows Iowans to keep their electric bills low, Iowa Interfaith Power & Light says. The environmental advocacy organization says that states know what is best for their residents and businesses.

Maintaining state control provides opportunities for innovation without risk to the rest of the country. “Iowa led the country this year with precedent-making solar policy,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a June 4 letter to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee.

“Iowa utilities, farmers, solar industry representatives and environmental groups met for a year to find a compromise on net metering policy that works for all Iowans. I was proud to sign the legislation, Senate File 583 — passed unanimously — into law this spring.”

She believes that the New England Ratepayers’ case could undermine the progress Iowa made with Senate File 583 and stifle innovations made around the country and would take away power from the states on energy decision-making.

“The federal government has historically had jurisdiction over wholesale energy markets, while each state has the right, as it should, to control the retail energy market in its own state,” Gov. Reynolds said. “The Iowa Utilities Board — people here in Iowa — not an agency in DC, should be in control of Iowa’s retail energy market.”

Gov. Reynolds said, “Iowa farmers have been leading the way on renewable energy, including livestock producers who have suffered some of the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” A decision favorable to the New England Ratepayers would lead to higher energy costs for livestock producers who have already invested in solar energy projects on their farms, she said.

She asked FERC commissioners to dismiss the New England Ratepayers’ case and let states continue to lead.

Matt Russell, executive director of Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, encourages Iowans to “contact Governor Reynolds to thank her for her leadership. They can also contact Senators Grassley and Ernst to ask them to join the governor in encouraging FERC to stand with Americans who want to invest in clean energy like solar on their farms, homes, businesses, churches and schools.”

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