Yuletide greetings to all.
What, you ask? Christmas is long since over!
Not for Iowa’s investor owned utilities. They are getting an armful of belated holiday gifts from the Iowa General Assembly, and if you pay a gas or power bill, you will eventually be picking up a big tab.
The Commerce Committee, on which I serve, has passed a Senate bill on energy. It now goes on to the full House for debate.
Under SF 2311, home energy audits, rebates for fuel efficient appliances and other incentives leading to less energy use will be greatly scaled back.
The utilities’ own analyses suggest efficiency programs save customers $2 for every dollar invested and in 2016 conservation programs provided about $400 million in net savings for Alliant and MidAmerican customers.
SF 2311 will cut energy saving programs by about $100 million per year.
This rollback effort is backed by Iowa investor owned utilities. The supporters of the bill say the cost of the rebate programs amounts to an unseen charge to energy consumers. And indeed, you could see a small decrease in your utility bill. But in the long term it will cost consumers plenty if utility companies must invest in costly generation facilities to meet growing demand. You will be paying for the development of those facilities.
In short, the utilities aren’t really interested in saving energy. They are happy if you use more.
I have seldom seen a bill more roundly criticized from a wider variety of groups than SF 2311.
Iowa Consumer Advocate Mark Schuling says this is a utility bill that is good for them and bad for consumers. Language throughout the bill puts the utilities in the driver’s seat with phrases like “in its (the utility’s) sole discretion” and “at the rate-regulated public utility’s discretion.” Consumers will have little leverage or standing.
A broad consortium of well-known businesses, including Siemens, Johnson Controls, Oracle and others say the bill adds uncertainty, making it harder for businesses to consider Iowa in their long term investment decisions.
A group of scientists from Iowa’s colleges and universities sent legislators a statement in strong opposition to the bill. The scientists say it is well known that global climate change has and will cause significant damage in Iowa. The state does not need to make things worse with this legislation.
The Iowa scientists’ statement said: “(Climate change effects) are especially troublesome when they are exacerbated by collective decisions to forgo easily implemented efficiency improvements and fuel choices in pursuit of, at best, very short-term gain.”
Finally, this bill directly contradicts the efforts and goals of Governor Kim Reynolds’ own Iowa Energy Plan. Amanda Zwanziger, a member of the bipartisan group working on the energy plan, wrote in The Des Moines Register that the bill would create an unworkable system for energy efficiency and will lead to increased costs for Iowans.
The Legislature should be concerned with the long term interests of our state, not some possible short term gain by corporate investors. SF2311 is very bad public policy.
by State Representative John Forbes