State Leaders Issue Iowa Energy Plan

posted by Nathaniel Baer on Wednesday, December 21, 2016

After more than year in development, state leaders released the Iowa Energy Plan at a statehouse news event today. Council staff attended the event and have been reviewing the 100+ page plan and supporting documents. Leading up to today’s release, IEC Energy Program Director Nathaniel Baer served on one of the four working groups – the Iowa Energy Resources group – to provide expert input on the plan development.

The Iowa Energy Plan recognizes the clear benefits to Iowa from its leadership position and many successes on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Those include job creation, business growth and attraction, low energy costs, and environmental and public health benefits from cleaner air. The Plan looks to build on these successes with a number of strategies and next steps that would further expand renewable energy and energy efficiency and bring its benefits to more Iowans and more communities across the state.

Some highlights from our review so far include:

Solar tax incentives. The Plan recommends establishing more long-term certainty from Iowa’s successful solar tax incentive program by making it independent of the federal tax incentive it is tied to. Congress has historically allowed federal energy incentives to expire and the current federal solar incentive is phasing out over the next five years. Iowa can establish a permanent or more long-standing incentive for solar to drive the market and provide long-term certainty.

Renewable energy goals. The Plan recognizes that Iowa is “well positioned to achieve aggressive clean energy goals within the next 15 to 20 years” and identifies some examples of other states’ ‘aggressive’ goals at between 50% and 100% renewable energy. Plan at page 55. Because Iowa is on track to exceed 40% wind in the next few years, we believe the 50% goal would not be aggressive while the 100% goal is an appealing option for Iowa.

Energy efficiency. The Plan highlights Iowa’s cumulative successes with efficiency to date by stating that a “major result of energy efficiency programs is that they generate a sustained cycle of avoided costs, and as such lower energy prices.” Plan at page 35. The current policy approach is working to deliver efficiency and lower costs for everyone. However, changes that a small group of industrial companies have proposed in past years would weaken programs and increase costs. Industrial opt-out “may resolve the concerns on the end-user side, [but] the impacts to energy efficiency programs can be significant and result in all other utility system customers having to pay more.” Plan at 39. The plan recommends using a data driven approach to benchmark costs in Iowa compared to other states and to use this information in future years to evaluate public policy.

Transmission and grid modernization. The Plan recognizes that grid upgrades will be needed to enable both additional utility-scale wind and distributed energy like solar, noting that a “modern grid will be more efficient, flexible, distributed, and better able to use more renewable sources of electricity.” The Plan suggests convening a stakeholder group on grid planning and implementation and to initiate a number of pilot projects on grid modernization, microgrids, and energy storage.

The Plan is “a call to action for Iowa’s leadership to work together toward a clean energy future.” Iowa’s successes on clean energy so far are significant, but there are tremendous untapped resources in Iowa, and tremendous benefits from using those resources. Throughout, the Plan prioritizes putting recommendations into action, and the Council will continue to work with stakeholders and partners to do just that.

  1. solar power
  2. wind power

About The Author

Nathaniel joined the Council in 2007. He researches and advocates for policies to expand solar, wind, transmission and energy efficiency, and coordinates the Council’s coalition of allies on energy and climate issues. Nathaniel currently serves on the Midwest Power Sector Collaborative, a s ... read more