IEC laments rejection of state's Solar for All proposal

posted on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Energy News

The Iowa Environmental Council is extremely disappointed that the state’s Solar for All application for $75 million to support a statewide community solar program has been rejected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As advocates for clean energy and lowering the cost of energy for Iowans of low-income, we believe many of our state’s most vulnerable residents would have benefited from the program, which is why we were happy to provide a letter of support for the state’s application. The federal program requirements were written to ensure that customers who would have been enrolled in Iowa’s community solar program would have had their energy bills reduced by 20% for up to 5 years. Now, Iowans are being left to deal with rising electricity prices with no meaningful plan from the state to control those costs, despite having an option to do so during the legislative session.

While we are disappointed that Iowans once again missed out on federal climate funds and appreciate the work of the state employees who put together this application, there were some key items in the state’s application that both reflect our state’s disappointing policies on addressing climate change in Iowa and our state leaders’ continued prioritization of profits for investor-owned utilities over the needs of low-income Iowans. For example, the state’s application did not include any incentives or funding to implement distributed rooftop solar on homes and businesses. In fact, it specifically chose not to invest in third-party ownership of such projects under the proposed program, even though the federal requirements make that a key objective of the Solar for All program. These unfortunate realities weakened the application and once again left money on the table that would have improved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of Iowa families.

It’s difficult to place blame when an application like this one is rejected. That said, our state’s leaders have failed to prioritize clean energy and meaningfully address climate change. Last year, Gov. Reynolds chose not to participate in the Climate Pollution Reduction Grant Program, which would have given millions to Iowa to develop a statewide climate action plan, leaving it to two metropolitan areas to pick up the slack. The consequences of that decision are still being felt today, as more than $19 million that could have come to the state are no longer in play. With the rejection of the Solar for All application, Iowans missed out on more than $90 million in federal climate funds in one week alone.  

Our state’s leaders, specifically the legislature and the governor, need to step up to make climate action a priority and act quickly to stop Iowa from being left behind in the energy transition.