The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Feed-in Tariff Breakthrough in Iowa?

Could the conservative heartland sate of Iowa breach the dam holding back feed-in tariffs for renewable energy in the US when self-styled "progressive" states such as California continue to dawdle? That is the possible implication of a vote by the Agriculture Committee of Iowa's state Senate Thursday, 7 March 2013.

Political observers and the media often overlook mid-western states in deference to presumably more trendsetting states on the west coast. However, many  of the progressive movements in US history have grown out of grassroots campaigns in the nation’s heartland. The same could be true for feed-in tariffs.

The bill, SSB 1234, has a long ways to go should it ever become law, and the odds against it, as in most other states, are very long as powerful forces begin aligning against it. Nevertheless, the bill now moves to the Senate floor.

Significantly, the bill passed the Agriculture Committee unanimously. That is, the bill not only received the support of Democrats in the Democratically controlled chamber, but also support by Republicans on the committee. This bodes well for at least consideration by the Republican controlled House should the bill pass the Senate.

In another departure for much of the current discussion across the country and in particular on proposals for feed-in tariffs, SSB 1234 is not about solar photovoltaics. No, the bill is aimed at distributed wind energy and is limited to projects less than 20 MW.

Iowa knows a lot about wind energy and it is comfortable with the technology. In 2012, Iowa produced 24.5 percent of generation by in-state wind energy, far more than the one-time leader California’s 5 percent. Even in absolute numbers, Iowa’s 14 TWh of wind generation exceeded that of California’s 10 TWh in 2012.

However, nearly all wind energy in Iowa is found in large wind power plants developed by multinational utility companies. Only a very small percentage of Iowa’s wind generation is produced by small, distributed projects and even less is owned by Iowans themselves.

The bill allows distributed wind projects to account for one-half of the annual growth in residential electricity consumption. One estimate is that this could be up to 60 MW per year. If true, Iowa’s proposal is four times greater than the much heralded, some would say over hyped, feed-in tariff program of Los Angeles’ Department of Water & Power that is limited to 20 MW per year.

Iowa’s SSB 1234 is a milestone in renewable policy proposals in the US since Tea Party reactionaries seized legislatures across the country in 2010. As one activist suggested, this could finally be a sign of brightening fortunes for feed-in tariffs.

Unlike advocates in other states, where solar only bills monopolize feed-in tariff discussion, renewable proponents in Iowa are more inclusive. Proponents of SSB 1234 hope to add biomass and solar once the bill reaches the floor of the Senate.

One of the bill’s key features is using the connecting utility’s regulated rate of return in calculating the tariff that would be paid under the standard offer contract. Renewable advocates have long proposed that distributed or locally-owned renewables should be paid a tariff that includes calculation of a rate of return equal to that granted electric utilities. In most countries and in most proposals in North America, however, regulators use a much lower rate of return for investment in distributed renewables than the utilities receive themselves. Sometimes the return acceptable to regulators for distributed renewables is half that received by regulated utilities.

Summary of Key Features

Program cap: ½ of annual retail electricity consumption growth

Project cap: 20 MW

Geographic limit: only on agricultural land

Interconnection: mandatory for utilities

Tariff determination: based on cost to utility, inclusive of the utility’s regulated rate of return

Contract term: 10 years

Review: biannual

Note: The Bill has been renumbered: SF 372.

SF 372 Contents

SF 372 Bill History

Lead image: Iowa sign via Shutterstock

RELATED ARTICLES

Wind turbines

Wind Energy Is Crucial in the Fight Against Climate Change, Says US Energy Secretary

Meg Cichon, Associate Editor

The opening general session at Windpower 2015 marked the first appearance by an U.S. energy secretary at the show, “which is surprising,” said current energy secretary Ernest Moniz, “but better late than never.”

Renewable Power Can Now Flow All Over Europe

Rachel Morison and Weixin Zha After almost two years of delays, Germany, France and their neighbors in central-western Europe connected their electricity markets on Wednesday under a system that lets prices dictate where power flows between countries. F...

First Anniversary of The Balkan Floods Highlights Renewable Energy Market Opportunities

Ilias Tsagas, Contributor One year ago this month, severe flooding in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia killed 79 people, displaced about half a million and caused economic paralysis of the region. In the wake of these the catastrophic events, ...
Canadian Climate Goals

Canada Announces Weak Climate Target

Danielle Droitsch, NRDC Last week, Canada has announced its contribution to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases by announcing its post-2020 target. The target announced today is off-track to the 80 percent cut by 2050 they committed to in...
Paul Gipe has written extensively about renewable energy for both the popular and trade press. He has also lectured widely on wind energy and how to minimize its impact on the environment and the communities of which it is a part. For his efforts,...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Doing Business in Brazil – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

Brazil is one of the most promising markets for wind energy.  Ranke...

EU PVSEC 2015 (European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition)

The EU PVSEC is the largest international Conference for Photovoltaic re...

Wind Power Central America

Wind power projects are expected to reach 46GW of total installed capaci...

COMPANY BLOGS

EU PVSEC 2014: Call for Papers Receives Great Response

More than 1,500 contributions apply for presentation in AmsterdamScienti...

EU PVSEC 2014 extends its Scope

Added focus on application and policy topicsAbstracts for conference con...

Harnessing the #ElonEffect: Deconstructing the PR Success of Tesla’...

As most of the world has heard by now, Tesla and its co-founder, Elon Mu...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS