Iowa one of 31 states without laws banning electric shutoffs during a heat wave
DES MOINES, Iowa - There’s a lot of summer still left, but Iowans who struggle to pay their electricity bills can lose their air conditioning regardless of the temperature. Iowa has no regulations on companies disconnecting service during heat waves.
With higher heat comes higher electric bills. Some may find it harder to pay and face the possibility of disconnection. Every state surrounding Iowa, except Nebraska and South Dakota, has consumer protections that prohibit electric providers from cutting off power in high heat, according to the Energy Justice Lab at Indiana University. But here in the Hawkeye State, no such protections exist. Dr. Laura Bowshier, a family doctor in Waukee, says that can be dangerous.
“When people’s bodies can’t keep up with that change in the temperature, they lose a lot of fluids and they can get symptoms like headaches and nausea and vomiting because the bodies necessarily aren’t meant to be continued with that high of heat without some relief,” Bowshier said.
Bowshier says the risks are even more concerning for the elderly.
“Folks over 65 are not as able to have their bodies respond to those changes in temperature and certainly can be on medications that keep their bodies from responding in the same way,” Bowshier said.
Jim Kringlen, an attorney with Iowa Legal Aid, says state law gives customers the right to a payment plan to prevent a shutoff.
“Those payment Agreements are supposed to be based on the customer’s ability to pay what’s based on their income Etc. There’s a number of factors and it must be at least 12 months long,” Kringlen said.
Kringlen says under the law, providers must postpone a shutoff for 30 days if a customer gives them verification that a shutoff would pose “special danger” to someone in the home’s mental or physical health.
“That applies to any member of the household not just named customer and it’s a very broad regulation. It’s not just if I I have a medical device that requires electricity or I will die. It’s much broader than that,” Kringlen said.
Providers are also prohibited from cutting off electricity during and up to 90 days after a service member in the home is deployed.
In a statement, MidAmerican Energy said they pause disconnections when the heat index is above 100 degrees, adding they may choose to pause them during a heat wave under “certain circumstances”.
“We know that no matter the weather, there’s never a good time for the power to go out over a past-due bill. When a customer is behind on their bill, we encourage them to contact their local community action agency for assistance. Customers can also always call us at 888-427-5632 to talk through available options and find a solution that works for them,” MidAmerican said.
Alliant Energy said in a statement that they too monitor the forecast and may pause disconnections during extreme heat.
“We work closely with customers who may face challenges paying their bill. This includes helping customers set up payment plans and connecting them to available resources. Customers can call 211 or visit alliantenergy.com/energyassistance.
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