Iowa utility offers high ‘green’ pricing without adding renewables

Iowa utility offers high ‘green’ pricing without adding renewables

by Karen Uhlenhuth

An Iowa electric utility has proposed a green pricing option that ultimately could cost a customer more than investing in a rooftop solar system, according to the analysis of some clean-energy supporters in the state.

Critics also expressed doubts as to whether Alliant Energy’s green pricing option, known as Beyond Solar, would lead to the development of new renewable energy in the state.

Advocates say it looks like the option, now pending before the Iowa Utilities Board, will simply tap into wind and solar resources that Alliant Energy already owns. That would defeat the purpose of green pricing, critics add, and apparently would not follow the “spirit and intent” of a law that requires utilities to offer green pricing, or a premium for renewable energy.

“While it might not technically violate the rules, it certainly violates the spirit and intent of those rules,” said Josh Mandelbaum, a staff attorney based in Iowa for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“The way this program is set up, the same amount of renewable energy is going to be on the grid whether no one participates in the program or 1,000 people participate,” Mandelbaum continued.

The reason, he said, is because Alliant Energy proposes to provide Beyond Solar subscribers with energy from two existing sources of generation — a power-purchase agreement with an Iowa wind farm and a 5-megawatt (MW) solar array that Alliant just built in Dubuque.

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