By Katie Rock, Center for Rural Affairs

A group of state lawmakers allied with Iowa’s biggest investor-owned utility to introduce House Study Bill 185. This bill would limit the ability of farms and individuals to produce their own electricity. While other Midwest states are blazing a trail in expanding solar power generation, House Study Bill 185 would set Iowa back as consumers look to cut costs and become energy independent.

Net metering allows customers with energy production systems, like solar panels, to be compensated for the excess energy they provide to their neighbors, often during peak times when demand and rates are highest. The proposal would allow investor-owned utilities to charge homeowners and businesses that have these systems with additional fees, discouraging these projects and making them cost prohibitive.

With net metering, demand increases for solar energy systems—creating jobs for designers, installers, electricians, and equipment suppliers in Iowa’s renewable energy industry. The solar industry provides more than 800 jobs in communities across the state, a number that continues to grow as the price of solar energy drops. An estimated 86 percent of solar jobs in the U.S. are for homes and businesses with only 14 percent in the utility sector. Net metering is critical for these Iowa jobs.

Iowa has always been a leader in renewable energy, but is missing out on an economic opportunity with solar—Minnesota’s solar energy capacity has more than quadrupled in four years, and Illinois’ capacity is growing even faster. To join our neighbors in harnessing the benefits of solar energy, Iowa should reject this regressive legislation.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.