State and Federal Policy Updates for 2022
Maddi MacDonald, Green Iowa Americorps Logistics Coordinator
On January 18th, 2022, Steve Falck from Environmental Law and Policy Center joined Clean Energy District of Iowa’s Executive Director, Andy Johnson to discuss this year’s state and federal policy priorities. Bills proposed last year are still working their way through the legislatures.
Current Energy Policy in Iowa:
Residential Solar Tax Credit
Many Iowan’s are still advocating for funding the tax credit waiting list. The tax credits were technically set to expire at the end of 2021, so many people built solar systems last year with the understanding that they would receive a tax credit. However, there is an annual funding cap of $5 million and this amount was already claimed by taxpayers on the waiting list. At least 1,500 Iowa families will not receive the tax credit they’re owed if the legislature doesn’t take action. If you know folks who have installed residential solar, please ask them to reach out to their senators and representatives and speak about their loss. The Iowa Environmental Council has a bill tracker that will show the paths of these bills.
Virtual Net Metering
The Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association (ISETA) is supporting a bill focused on Virtual Net Metering and meter aggregation. The goal is to make it possible for customers without good solar sites (such as apartment buildings, local governments, etc) to access solar installed offsite, or on a shared rooftop. This is an exciting bill as it opens the door for community solar and allows energy benefits that could be far more accessible to renters.
This bill, supported by MidAmerican, focuses on large energy users like manufacturers, data centers, etc. MidAmerican wants to create a new rate class that would allow large private companies to take advantage of renewable energy sources. The utility board denied a similar proposal as a new rate class last year so now MidAmercan has turned to the legislature. Any new law would also apply to Alliant Energy customers, however the two utilities are not in agreement on the exact language of the bill. This bill could increase demand for renewable energy in the state, however, it could also force companies that don’t qualify for or opt into the new rate class to continue paying for coal power. Renewable energy supporters see an opportunity to add an important rider to this bill. Currently, Iowa does not have Integrated Resource Planning. A rider on this bill could require an Integrated Resource Planning process which could encourage utilities to share the economics of their electricity generation methods and publicly outline their plans for taking uneconomical fossil fuel plants off line. This data could allow customers to push for faster shutdown timelines on the most uneconomical plants.
Iowa has a number of ambitious Solar Farms that have been proposed, notably in Linn County. Unfortunately, there is growing local opposition. This opposition is fueled by misinformation from out-of-state, fossil fuel funded outfits spreading myths such as solar causes pollutant runoff and destroys agricultural land. This is riling up anger towards large scale solar. Now a proposed bill would effectively kill utility scale in Iowa by dictating huge property setbacks and prohibiting solar on “productive corn ground.”
Blue-Green Alliance: New coalition with the Iowa Federation of Labor
President Biden is promoting solar installation as a way to provide good union jobs. This national conversation has spurred action across Iowa and the state’s Federation of Labor has been partnering with ELPC and others to advocate for the hiring of local union workers for solar projects across the state. Working together at the state level has a massive impact, as shown by Nextera and Clenera both pledging to use union labor at their proposed new Linn County solar farms, one near Coggon, and the other near the decommissioned Duane Arnold nuclear power plant.
Carbon Capture and Storage Pipelines
Another major policy focus is carbon capture storage through a pipeline. Currently there are 3 pipelines being proposed, however there are obvious concerns for damage to the environment, especially if this carbon would be used for enhanced oil extraction in North Dakota. There are also questionable economic benefits of a pipeline as well. According to one of the primary developers, two things are required to have a successful pipeline; Federal Tax Credit access and using the carbon to increase and enhance oil recovery. This tax credit exists and is proposed to increase in the Build Back Better plan. MidAmerican is currently not planning to close any coal plants, however they have stated they want to move to zero net emissions. They plan to get there through carbon capture technology while adding modular nuclear energy and increasing their wind.
Federal Energy Priorities:
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed late in 2021.
This bipartisan law funds $284 billion in spending for transportation, with the largest section dedicated to roads and bridges, and a smaller section for passenger rail. The bill also includes $15 billion for electric vehicles and $7.5 billion for charging infrastructure. We need these dollars to flow out to rural Iowa as well, not just the major cities and interstate travel corridors. Half of the electric vehicle spending is targeted to electrifying school buses and lowering emissions.
The non transportation related part of the bill focuses on state level electric grid resilience, research and supply chains, batteries, carbon capturing, hydrogen, nuclear, and weatherization. Green Hydrogen is an exciting new technology that Iowa can key in on and help develop. Join us in February 2022, to hear about the advances in this technology.
It is important to note the infrastructure bill by itself does not decrease emissions by much, however the proposed Build Back Better bill has a larger impact due to the renewable energy tax credits and methane fee.
Watch the recording: