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Solar advocates suspect Iowa utility is behind group critical of net metering

PHOTO BY Iqkotze / Wikimedia Commons

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The REAL Coalition claims to represent farmers, consumers and businesses, but its message echoes utility talking points.

Iowa clean energy advocates suspect the state’s largest utility is secretly behind a new organization claiming to represent farmers, consumers and businesses that oppose the state’s solar policies.

A spokeswoman for MidAmerican Energy did not directly answer a question about its role in the group, but solar industry supporters said the timing and similarities in messaging suggest a link.

“This group didn’t exist until the utilities, particularly MidAmerican, started pushing a bill that would decimate the distributed solar industry in Iowa,” said Josh Mandelbaum, a lawyer with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

In late January, a few weeks before the introduction of two bills that would impose new costs on solar customers, a website and Facebook page surfaced for an organization calling itself the REAL Coalition, which claims it “gives voice to Iowa consumers, farmers and businesses on the energy issues affecting our state.”

The website decries what it calls the “solar cost shift,” and urges legislators to “keep the interests of ALL your constituents in mind and vote YES” on bills moving briskly through both chambers that would impose substantial new fees on electricity customers who generate some of their own power.

MidAmerican Energy was heavily involved in drafting the bills and issued a press release in support of them. The utility neither confirmed nor denied a role in setting up the group.

“MidAmerican Energy is supportive of the SOLAR Act’s proposed policy — to ensure customer fairness by eliminating the shifting of costs from one customer onto another. We are supportive of organizations that also stand for customer fairness and other smart energy policies, as the REAL Coalition does.”

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