Des Moines, Iowa - February 8th, 2018
By Lilith Shoemaker
With solar policy changing on national and state levels it is important to stay up to date on the changing laws. It doesn't matter if you personally have a solar array, I bet you know someone who does, or even someone who works in the solar industry.
This industry is currently employing nearly 260,000 Americans, which is more than twice as much as in 2012. The price for a customer to install a solar array is over 70% less than it was in 2010 but as national policies change, so to are state policies.
Why We Went to the Capitol
Last week, Alliant Energy, MidAmerican Energy, rural coop’s, and municipal utilities unveiled bills at the Iowa Capitol that would allow them to charge solar customers higher rates - without any oversight. If these bills get signed into law, the effect will be higher rates, even for customers who have already installed solar. With these detrimental bills in the works, we knew that we needed to head to the capitol to let our voices be heard in support of solar.
A team of four from Simpleray, including myself, went to the Iowa State Capitol to talk to elected officials about these changes which include two tax credits, and the significant bills that are being rushed through the legislative process in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate.
The distinct thing that the four of us share is that we live in Iowa as a direct result of the solar industry. We are four transplants that have found a new home, and are adding to the Iowa economy because of solar. Lewis and Lindsey are both from Michigan and Jerry is from Oregon, and they all moved to Iowa to work in the solar industry. I moved to Iowa from California for higher education, but stayed after earning my degree because my best job opportunity was in the Iowa solar industry. As a perfect representation of how solar is changing lives and giving people amazing opportunities, we had a compelling story to share. Solar is not only a sustainable decision, but it is growing the economy in Iowa.
To the Capitol
Upon entering the building we went through a 90’s style airport security checkpoint, walking through a metal detector and having our belongings scanned, after which we were welcomed onto the bottom floor. Two flights up, the rose marble staircase opens onto a scene of grand pillars laced with gold filigree, countless crystal chandeliers, and important looking people bustling to their next meeting. Walking further into the hall the ceiling transforms into a towering dome decorated in the same ambitious style. It is stunning to say the least.
After getting over the shock of the grandeur that surrounded us, we began the task of the day: talk to every official we could about what was happening with proposed solar policy changes. We joined the throngs of people moving up more flights of beautifully decorated stairs toward the chambers.
How to talk to your elected officials:
When you get to the chambers this is what you do:
- Grab a slip of paper off the designated table.
- Write the seat number, senator/representative’s name, your name, who you are representing (town, company, organization),the date and time, and whether you are waiting to see them, have left them literature, or are leaving a message.
- Hand the slip of paper to the doorman.
Soon one of three things will happen:
- The door man brings the slip back informing you that the senator or representative is unavailable.
- A student helper (aka a page) will bring the slip back telling you a time to come back to meet with the senator or representative.
- The senator or representative comes out to speak with you!
If you are lucky, or are willing to stay long enough (like we did), you should be able to have a short meeting with the senator or representative of your choosing. So we sent in slip after slip, waiting for those golden moments of time where we could make our, and our customers, voices heard in support of solar.
We also teamed up with representatives from the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association and presented our story as well as our feelings on the benefits of solar, and how harmful the new bills that were introduced could be. We met with many officials, spreading our story throughout the day, culminating into a meeting with the governor's office.
It is important to be involved with the political process when it comes to something you are passionate about. Every employee at Simpleray has a passion for bettering the world in which we live, and if you do too, now is a chance to let your voice be heard!
Let your Senators and Representatives know that you are not in favor of Senate Study Bill 3093 and House Study Bill 595 due to allowing discriminatory rates to be established for customers with solar and other distributed generation.
This bill would allow for utilities to change rates for customers with very little oversight by the Iowa Utilities Board. This bill has the potential to kill the solar industry in Iowa. Solar has created hundreds of good paying jobs and has generated a capitol investment of over 166 million dollars over the past 6 years spread through all 99 counties. On behalf of Simpleray, I would appreciate your support in helping to stop this bad bill.