MidAmerican is asking state regulators to let the utility increase in its rates for electricity. MidAmerican spokeswoman Tina Potthoff says if approved, customers will see a three-to-four percent increase in their electric bills, starting in March.

“The increase is necessary in order for us to comply with expensive environmental requirements and because of increasing energy production costs,” Potthoff says. 

About 566,000 Iowa customers get their electricity from MidAmerican, including 513,000 residential customers in the state. Potthoff describes this rate-hike request as a rarity.

“MidAmerican Energy has not raised Iowa-based electric rates since 1995 and our customers have benefitting from more than 16 years of rate stability,” she says.

MidAmerican’s electric rates are among the lowest in the country, according to Potthoff.

“MidAmerica’s total retail electric rates are actually sixth-lowest nationally, at an average of about six cents per kilowatt hour,” Potthoff says, “and we’re approximately 40 percent lower than the national average for investor-owned utilities.”

MidAmerican Energy is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway and is part of Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company today announced it’s purchasing a solar farm in California and company spokeswoman Ann Thelen says it’s capable of generating enough power for 160,000 homes in California. 

“There’s a power purchase agreement in place for 25 years where Pacific Gas and Electric Company will be purchasing all the electricity output from the Topaz Solar Power project in California,” Thelen says.

There are six energy companies operating under MidAmerican Energy Holdings, including MidAmerican Energy and Pacific Gas and Electric Company. This is the first solar farm in the MidAmerican Energy Holdings portfolio.

“We have demonstrated our committment to renewable energy by becoming the number one owner of wind-powered energy generation in the U.S. among rate-regulated utilities,” Thelen says, “so this provides us an opportunity learn how…solar energy may benefit our customer at our different utilities.” 

Iowa is home to many of MidAmerican’s massive wind farms, but it’s unlikely large “solar farms” will be springing up here.

“There are maps that show the best places for solar generation and, certainly, out in California — where this project is located — that is one of the prime locations,” Thelen says. “Maximum output, as you might imagine, of solar energy occurs during the summer months, due to the earth’s tilt.”

Solar farms work best in “sunny, arid environments,” like California, according to Thelen. The Topaz project in Calfornia is one of the world’s largest solar farms, worth an estimated $2 billion.