Des Moines Looks to Alternatives for Climate Accountability After City Approves Long-Term Franchise Agreement

posted on Thursday, May 26, 2022 in Energy News

At Monday night’s city council meeting, the City of Des Moines officially voted to approve a 13-year utility franchise agreement with MidAmerican Energy, which will take effect in June 2022. This meeting was the final of the three required readings and votes on the franchise agreement, a binding contract that gives the utility access to the city right-of-way in order to provide service to Des Moines customers.  

Throughout the process, IEC had urged city council members and the city manager to negotiate with MidAmerican Energy, originally calling for a short-term, three-year contract. As the process evolved, our ask shifted, and we began calling for the inclusion of language that would have allowed the city options to terminate the agreement at the 3-year mark (2025) and the 8-year mark (2030). These termination or cancellation windows would have given the city the opportunity to consider alternatives if MidAmerican wasn’t complying with the city’s climate and clean energy goals. Other Iowa cities have received such clauses in their agreements. 

“The final long-term agreement gives fewer options to future leaders who will deal with escalating climate impacts,” says Matt Ohloff, IEC’s Clean Communities Manager. “Last year Des Moines made a climate commitment to use 24/7 carbon-free electricity by 2035. MidAmerican plans to burn coal until 2049—well beyond the deadline for the city’s goal. This agreement marks a mismatch in targets and priorities, and we’ll now have to look to other avenues to ensure accountability.” 

One major opportunity is the cooperation statement, or side agreement, between the city and MidAmerican, which the city council also passed at Monday night’s meeting. This side agreement lays out many exciting climate and clean energy solutions the city and MidAmerican plan to pursue in Des Moines in the coming years. Items in this agreement include expanding and creating new energy efficiency programs, local clean energy projects, building electrification, electric vehicle infrastructure, data sharing and energy load forecasting, and more. 

This side agreement is non-binding, so it will be crucial for city council members, city staff, and Des Moines residents to make sure the city and MidAmerican are fulfilling the terms of the agreement. IEC, along with our allies, look forward to working with the City and MidAmerican to make progress on the projects in the side agreement and to meet the city’s climate and clean energy goals. 

The next major undertaking by the City of Des Moines is the upcoming Climate Action and Adaptation Planning process, ADAPT DSM. Brian Campbell, IEC’s Executive Director, was asked to serve on the steering committee, along with many of our allies, as part of this process. IEC’s Water Program Associate Director, Alicia Vasto, was also asked to sit on the Technical Advisory Group. Meetings to develop Des Moines’ Climate Action and Adaptation Plan start this week, and we’re committed to making it as ambitious, comprehensive, and equitable as possible. 

  1. clean energy
  2. climate change