Alliant Energy to Expand Solar Generation in Iowa

Alliant Energy is seeking to expand its renewable energy generation with solar power. Alliant Energy’s Iowa utility is issuing a request for proposals for new solar projects that could increase its system-wide solar generation by fifty percent.
“We’re in a transition right now as we continue to move to a cleaner energy future,” according to Doug Kopp, President of Alliant Energy’s Iowa utility. “We’ve been increasing the use of different types of renewable energy for years, and now we are exploring ways to specifically provide solar power to our customers.”

The request is to build solar projects between one and ten megawatts within Alliant Energy’s Iowa service territory, which could power between 200 and 2,000 average homes. The RFP seeks a variety of options and configurations for new solar generation in Iowa, and the company hopes that developers will bring innovation to their proposals.

“There are a variety of ways we could design and deploy solar energy,” said Kopp. “We will be considering a wide range of options, from larger utility-scale solar fields to smaller community solar programs. We will engage customers, key stakeholders and interested parties to help us develop the new program options, rates and services.”

Alliant Energy has helped Iowa customers connect 1,650 individual solar or wind systems to the electric system and recognizes that different customers need different options.

Rooftop solar companies profit from your loss



Solar panels are installed on a house in Ixonia in this Wisconsin Journal Sentinel file photo.


Journal Sentinel Files

By Bob Seitz

Nov. 6, 2014 7:07 p.m.

I have great respect for former state Rep. Mark Honadel and the service he has provided his community and the state. I am proud to call him a friend. So, when I saw the questions he raised in a recent op-ed, I thought they deserved a straightforward answer.

I can understand the confusion over the rate fairness proposals from Wisconsin utilities. The rooftop solar industry has spent big money trying to make someone else the enemy so it can keep profiting from freeloading on the electric system.

The insidious part of the campaign from the rooftop solar industry is that it attempts to motivate those least able to pay their electric bills to fight for the most regressive subsidy of the wealthy that I am aware of.

Make no mistake, the last thing the rooftop solar industry nationwide wants is a level playing field and free competition. Its profits come from selling generally well-off customers on the benefit of leaving someone else holding the bag for its costs. If you aren’t among the few who can afford to buy its product, you are among the many who pay.

In simple terms, here’s how it works. Most of your electric bill — roughly 75% — goes to cover the cost of getting the energy to your home and ensuring reliable energy is available to every customer 24/7. This includes the cost of the transmission lines on the huge poles and towers that move energy to the area, the distribution lines that carry it to your house, the line workers who maintain and restore power, the power plants, the substations and other workers and assets that cost money whether or not an individual is buying electricity. These “fixed costs” are the cost of having electricity available whenever we need it.

The “variable costs” are the costs related directly to your actual electric consumption. Fuel is the largest variable cost.

Today in Wisconsin, the vast majority of your bill is based on usage. This was fine when people purchased all of their power because everyone shared in paying for the fixed costs of the system.

Now, people who own a house that can accommodate a rooftop solar panel and have the extra money to install one can balance the electricity they buy when they need it against the energy they sell when they have too much. They still rely on the utility to have power ready whenever they need it and expect their utility to buy their extra electricity through those same lines whenever they have it, but they pay little toward the fixed cost of the system.

If wealthy customers can afford to get out of paying their true cost, who pays? You and I pay their bill, and the rooftop solar company uses that subsidy to increase its profits.

The neighbor who can afford the panels gets a lower bill, the rooftop solar company gets subsidized profits and you get stuck with the bill.

That’s why the rate fairness plans put forward by We Energies and other Wisconsin utilities make sense. If everyone pays his or her fair share of the fixed cost of having electricity available when needed, no one will be stuck with someone else’s bill. By lowering the variable rate for the electricity you use to match the increase in the fixed charge, the overall charge to consumers is not increased by these fairness plans. What does change is that the rooftop solar customers will have to pay for their portion of the cost of having electric service available to them instead of passing that cost on to you.

If the rooftop solar industry needs these subsidies to sell its product, it should be transparent about the subsidy it is seeking and try to openly increase it to increase the industry’s sales. The industry should try to make the case to taxpayers that high-income homeowners need greater government subsidy so it can sell more units, instead of hiding the subsidy that delivers its profits on the electric bills of others.

Bob Seitz is executive director of Wisconsin Utility Investors Inc.

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