Energy and Climate Program Priorities
The Energy and Climate Program's long-term goal is to transition Iowa from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy, including wind, solar, and energy efficiency, and to support the region and the nation's transition to clean energy. The Energy Program will work to ensure that this transition happens quickly and that all Iowans benefit from the transition.
We focus on energy because burning fossil fuels for energy is responsible for over 90% of greenhouse gas emissions globally and this transition is fundamental to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
Fortunately the transition to clean energy is well underway in Iowa, supported by policies that Council has helped enact or implement in recent years. Iowa has become a national leader on clean energy in the past decade, a status we will seek to maintain and expand. At the same time, there are real obstacles to continued progress as our utilities continue to rely heavily on coal and we have experienced setbacks in the deployment of energy efficiency in recent years. We also know that the progress we have made so far is just a small fraction of what will be necessary to move Iowa and the U.S. as a whole away from fossil fuels to a 100% clean energy economy.
Our policy goals in 2021-2022 will involve protection and implementation of existing policies, but will also be focused on moving Iowa forward in this pivotal moment for clean energy and expanding our reach to ensure greater equity in access to clean energy.
The Council will advocate for policies and practices at the local, state, and federal level that encourage development of distributed renewable energy generation and large-scale renewable energy projects with the long-term goal of reaching 100% renewable electricity. We anticipate focusing on the following:
- Improve access to renewables by expanding and improving clean energy tax incentives and innovative financing for farmers, businesses, residents, utilities, and communities to own or invest in wind, solar, and other renewable energy technologies. This includes extensions of federal tax incentives for wind and solar, increasing funds available for the Iowa upfront solar tax credit, and working with the utilities and through the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) and legislature to advance community solar and other renewable energy policies that will benefits Iowans with a low income.
- Protect and expand policies that support distributed renewables, including net metering, interconnection rules, rate design, and local policies. Advocate for utility rate design that is fair to customers with a low income and encourages investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
- Intervene in county and state approval processes to support utility-scale wind and solar projects.
- Ensure sufficient high-voltage transmission lines exist to allow for significant additions of wind power, such as reaching 25,000 megawatt (MW) milestones of wind capacity and 4,000 MW of solar capacity in Iowa.
Energy Efficiency and Electrification
Senate File 2311 in 2018 dealt a major blow to Iowa's energy efficiency programs. The Council has since been working to educate policymakers on the benefits of energy efficiency, to grow an efficiency coalition, and to focus in particular on impacts to low-income customers of more efficient housing.
We will continue this rebuilding while working to protect important codes and standards and push for more aggressive local policies where possible, such as the Des Moines building benchmarking ordinance. We will also expand to opportunities more appealing to utilities where we might be able to work together, such as vehicle (EV), building, and industrial process electrification. Our action in this area will:
Work with allies to develop policy and strategy to restructure and rebuild energy efficiency programs in a way that benefits all customers.
Focus on educating policymakers and the public about energy efficiency – what it is for, what it achieves, and who benefits.
Coordinate and assist with local efforts to move forward on energy efficiency.
Use research and advocacy with allies to create opportunities at the regulatory, state, and local level to advance electrification of vehicles, buildings, and industrial processes.
Retire Existing Coal Plants
Iowa still relies on many aging and highly polluting coal plants that were built in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. The Council will support efforts to retire these coal plants. This will include pursuit of creative regulatory structures and consideration of a just transition for communities impacted by coal plant closures that includes support for loss of tax base in those communities, as well as job re-training for displaced employees.
Emerging Technology and complementary Clean Energy Policies
We recognize that there are dynamic and fast-changing energy technologies, markets, and strategies at play and want to be flexible in specific areas. Depending on the pace of change, we may spend more or less time in the following areas:
As Iowa’s transition to clean energy continues, new technologies and strategies may be needed or be useful in integrating higher levels of wind and solar. The Council will further investigate and support these technologies and strategies where appropriate. We anticipate an expanded role for energy storage technologies and grid modernization.
The Council will support the work of our partners on a range of complementary policies and practices that are both environmentally and economically sustainable. For example, the Council will support policies to expand passenger transit choices such as bus and rail and reduce vehicle miles traveled, and will further explore policies that offer a soil carbon sequestration, soil conservation, and clean water benefit.
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