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Clean Energy

Clean energy in Iowa

For decades, Iowans have primarily relied on coal-fired power plants to meet many of our energy needs. In recent years, however, Iowa has begun a transition to clean energy, increasing wind power, solar power and energy efficiency. The Council is working to make this transition happen, making sure it improves our environment and economy, and ensuring it reduces the carbon pollution responsible for climate change.

Clean energy benefits Iowa’s environment and economy

  • Replacing coal power with wind, solar and other clean sources of energy will significantly reduce sources of pollution in Iowa. Coal-fired power plants are leading sources of toxics like mercury and arsenic, soot and smog, and carbon pollution. This pollution causes local air to be unhealthy to breathe, fish unsafe to eat and long-term change in our climate.

  • Renewable energy including wind and solar creates jobs for Iowans. Compared to fossil fuels or nuclear, renewable energy creates more jobs per unit of energy installed (e.g., per megawatt). The American Wind Energy Association estimates that Iowa supports between 4,000 and 5,000 jobs in the wind industry alone, and the job creation potential from wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources is substantial.

  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency keep energy dollars in Iowa instead of exporting them to other states or countries. This improves local economies across the state and keeps more money in every energy consumer’s pocket.


Using energy efficiently:  Energy efficiency is often the fastest and cheapest strategy to support a transition to clean energy. Using energy more efficiently means getting the same or better results we want – e.g., lighting, heating and cooling our homes, etc. – but doing so by using less energy.

Developing renewable energy:  Iowa has enormous potential for renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, and achieving this potential will provide benefits for Iowa’s environment and economy. This potential extends to large-scale renewable energy systems, like the large wind farms found across Iowa, as well as smaller-scale projects, such as farmer or community-owned wind turbines and solar panels on homes, farms, and small businesses.

Retiring existing coal:  Iowa uses far too much electricity from dirty and polluting coal-fired power plants. Coal power accounts for roughly 60% of all electricity generated in Iowa. Coal is a leading source of mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, particulate matter and carbon pollution. Many of Iowa’s coal-fired power plants are old, outdated and have little or no pollution control equipment. The Council supports retiring or finding cleaner fuel sources for existing coal plants as we transition to clean sources of energy, and cleaning up the plants that will need to continue to operate in the near future.

Reducing carbon pollution: To support the transition to clean energy and ensure it reduces carbon pollution, the Council is actively working to support the adoption and effective implementation of the first ever proposed carbon standards for existing power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan. These standards will finally reduce carbon pollution for the single largest concentrated source – the electric power sector – while increasing Iowa’s use of clean energy. Read the Council's comments to the EPA on the proposed carbon standards.