Iowa Caucuses: How Will Solar Do?

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How will solar advocates cast their votes in Iowa? Will parties make creating a fair market for solar part of their platforms?

As Iowa Democrats and Republicans prepare to participate in their local caucuses, Presidential hopefuls of both parties careen across the midwestern farm state in a last-minute frenzy to build last minute support for their campaigns ahead of Monday night. Unlike residents of larger states who go to their polling places to vote in primaries, Iowans come together in public libraries and auditoriums to speak out publicly in favor of their candidates and hash out their political differences face-to-face with their neighbors. Not only do Iowa Democrats and Republicans get to be the first to choose presidential candidates, but they also have the opportunity to draft and adopt resolutions, which may eventually become “planks” in their party’s platform. An article from the Iowa political blog Bleeding Heartland explains the process:

Most Iowa caucus-goers head home after the presidential candidate selection, but hard-core activists stick around Screen-shot-2012-11-13-at-2.35.47-PM-1to elect county convention delegates and consider resolutions for the party platform. If you bring a resolution to your precinct caucus, you have a good chance of getting it approved.

Many business groups and NGOs offer their members sample resolutions that they can take to caucus with them and offer up for consideration. For instance, the Iowa Sierra Club suggests that voters propose this resolution:

CAUCUS RESOLUTION – Climate Change

In order to protect the public from the effects of climate change, be it resolved that we support:

  • Undertaking efforts immediately to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and to bring the level of CO2 in the atmosphere below 350 parts per million.
  • Increasing renewable energy production to 50% in Iowa by 2030.CYnqDzMU0AI9pyN

The Iowa Sierra Club’s resolution reflects the goal set by NextGen Climate Action, a California-based advocacy group founded by hedge fund manager and environmentalist Tom Steyer. Steyer’s NextGen  has been running  TV ads in Iowa encouraging caucus goers to adopt their #50by30 goal. NextGen is relying heavily on student activists and promoting caucus attendance among young voters.

 

Where does renewable energy production rank with Iowa’s voters?

In August of 2015, the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association (ISETA) published a survey performed by Public Policy Polling. Key findings from the survey include:

  • 60% of voters in the state generally support the new EPA limits on carbon pollution from power plants, compared to only 36 % who oppose them. That includes support from87% of Democrats, 62% of independents, and33% of Republicans. When it comes to the specific goal of a 41% reduction in carbon pollution for Iowa by 2030 voters are even more supportive, with 65% in support of it to only 34% against.
  • 78% of voters believe that renewable electricity sources like wind and solar power are important to invest in, including 95% of Democrats, 82% of independents and 62% of Republicans.

Does this translate to support for pro-solar candidates in the Iowa caucuses? It depends on your definition of “pro-solar.” Solar Tribune began regular coverage of the candidates and their stands on solar over a year ago with our 2016 Presidential Campaign Solar Scorecard.  At that point, Chris Christie was the only Republican to score an A, and Donald Trump had not yet entered the race. Among Democrats, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders scored A grades, and Martin O’Malley had not declared his candidacy.   Look for an updated version of the Solar Scorecard as the race narrows.

IPP-osterberg144As for Iowa’s solar advocates and their plans for caucus night, Solar Tribune spoke with David Osterberg of The Iowa Policy Project. Osterberg is a former Iowa state representative who was chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, and a strong advocate for solar. Osterberg doesn’t mince words on the subject:

“Solar advocates should only support candidates who agree that humans contribute to climate change and that federal energy policies should support clean, renewable energy.”

When asked if he could draft a sample resolution for Iowans to add to their state party platforms he responded:

We resolve that Iowa’s net metering law that allows producers of renewable electricity to receive and produce electricity at the same price should be retained. We further resolve that electric utility companies can not charge an extra charge for serving renewable power customers aside from the small charge for a meter.

As voters from all parties pass resolutions that will become the “planks” of their party platforms, solar advocates will have the opportunity to make their priorities into policy, and next week, it all starts in Iowa.

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