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Iowa Democrats Oppose Bill To Let Customers See How Much They Pay for Green Energy

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Lawmakers in the Iowa legislature voted to change the way the state runs its energy efficiency programs, containing costs and giving consumers more choice.

By a straight party-line vote, Republicans in the Iowa state Senate passed Senate File 2311 Monday night after a raucous debate among legislators.

The measure — which was approved in the state House last week — is now in Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ hands.

The bill places a 2 percent cap on energy efficiency programs for electricity and 1.5 percent cap on natural gas utilities.

If passed, utilities will be required to indicate how much customers are paying to help finance energy rebates and other incentives that promote various efficiency programs.

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Additionally, the measure allows customers the choice to opt out of the efficiency programs altogether.

Supporters of the legislation point out that energy customers in Iowa are currently paying hidden costs of around 7 to 9 percent to prop up these efficiency programs.

Defending criticism that the changes would diminish energy efficiency in Iowa, GOP lawmakers said the bill simply reduces costs for consumers and gives them a choice as to whether they want to participate.

“Provisions in this bill specifically reduce the costs rate-regulated utilities levy on customers for energy efficiency projects by $100 million.

“The bill additionally directs rate-regulated utilities to return $100 million to rate payers as a result of federal tax reform legislation,” Republican state Sen. Mark Chelgren said in a Monday statement.

“Amazingly, opponents of the bill even disagreed with the requirement for energy efficiency projects to have a positive return on investment.”

GOP State Sen. Jake Chapman, another supporter of the bill, argued that the reforms end a hidden tax that has “scammed” residents in the state for years.

The GOP lawmaker claimed the changes will return $200 million to utility ratepayers in the first year and $100 million annually after that.

Democrats, however, vehemently oppose the legislation, believing it will gut environmentally friendly programs.

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“This is a really, really bad bill … It undermines a good, strong energy policy that this state has had on a bipartisan basis for several decades,” said Robert Hogg, a Democrat state senator, in a statement to the Des Moines Register.

Democratic state Sen. Joe Bolkcom was equally critical. “Iowa has positioned itself as a national leader,” he said to the Courier in Tuesday report. “Putting a cap on these programs is exactly the wrong direction to go. Saving energy is cheaper than building new plants.”

A version of this article appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation website.

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