MidAmerican Energy announces 100% clean energy for Iowa; still runs six Iowa coal plants
on Thursday, October 19, 2023
DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct. 19, 2023 -- MidAmerican Energy recently released a news statement claiming to have served Iowans with 100% renewable energy in 2022. The news release did not mention the six coal plants that MidAmerican Energy owns and operates in Iowa.
While publicly touting a 100% renewable energy vision through these media statements and paid advertising using ratepayer dollars, MidAmerican Energy is operating one of the largest coal fleets in the country. Nearly a quarter of the utility's energy generation (23%) still comes from coal.
Although MidAmerican has invested in low cost wind energy and grown its energy portfolio, the utility has not retired older, more costly generation. This has led to an overproduction of energy that generates profits for the utility at the expense of its ratepayers. In 2022 alone, 38% of MidAmerican's energy generation was sold to other utilities.
"MidAmerican Energy uses convenient math to make Iowans believe their energy is 100% renewable," said Karin Stein, Iowa Coordinator for Moms Clean Air Force. "MidAmerican is still selling almost 40% of their energy generation to other utilities, energy coming from coal plants operating within Iowa. Coal plants pollute the air and water with life-threatening chemicals and particles which hurt our young and other vulnerable populations. We need to see a switch to true 100% renewable energy vision."
In addition to coal plants being more costly to run and maintain than renewables like wind and solar, they bring a health cost to Iowans. A recent report found that four of the MidAmerican coal plants have coal ash ponds, sites that store waste product formed during coal-fired energy generation, that are leaking toxic pollutants into nearby groundwater and the environment.
"Iowans, regardless of where they live and no matter their background, should have access to clean air and water, and the tools to build a healthy and sustainable life," said Deaconess Irene DeMaris, Executive Director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light. "Communities who have been historically pushed to the margins often face the worst health impacts from pollution, and MidAmerican needs to do better."
Coal ash harbors hazardous contaminants capable of inducing cancer, illnesses, and both physical and neurological harm. Historically, coal-fired power plants have discarded coal ash in unsealed surface impoundments, commonly referred to as coal ash ponds, or landfills, potentially leading to its seepage into adjacent water sources. Coal ash waste accumulates every day in Iowa as coal plants continue to burn coal. Most recently, MidAmerican proposed to dump its coal ash waste directly into the Missouri River.
MidAmerican Energy's George Neal Energy Center
"It's past time we put customers first, not profits for Warren Buffet," said Emma Colman, Organizing Representative with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "Despite the propaganda they spread, the simple truth is that MidAmerican Energy is the single largest carbon polluter in Iowa. State and community leaders must hold MidAmerican Energy accountable for the truth."
MidAmerican's continued burning of coal negatively impacts the financial well-being of every Iowan. There is a social cost of burning coal, encompassing a wide range of negative impacts like public health issues, poor air quality, water pollution, environmental degradation, displacement of communities, economic losses, and disproportionate harm to vulnerable populations.
"MidAmerican is causing disproportionate harm to vulnerable communities such as the federal reservations of both the Winnebago and Omaha Nations just South MidAmerican's George Neal Energy Center and the predominantly Latino community of South Omaha situated a mere 10 minutes from MidAmerican's Walter Scott Energy Center in Council Bluffs," said Mahmud Fitil, Land Defense Director for Great Plains Action Society.
Collectively, MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy operate 4,384 MW of coal in Iowa, which leads to:
- $64.6 million to $145.6 million in increased healthcare costs for Iowans
- $843.5 million to $3.1 billion in social cost of CO2
- $452.8 million to $2.3 billion in corn yield loss
"Utilities in Iowa have complete monopolies over their service territories, and Iowans are their captive customers," said Cody Smith, Senior Policy Advocate with the Iowa Environmental Council. "It's time for MidAmerican Energy to be honest about its coal generation, and create a real vision to be a true clean energy leader by committing to a concrete timeline to close these plants. They owe it to their workers and the communities they serve to be truthful."
"MidAmerican's coal plants rob future generations of a livable environment with their unyielding pollution," said Tonyisha Harris, Associate Director of Youth Media and Partnerships. "Young people are inheriting a problem that MidAmerican is fully capable of resolving now – closing their coal-fired energy generation to make room for clean, renewable energy."
The Clean Up MidAm coalition was launched by a coalition of organizations and concerned Iowans to hold MidAmerican Energy accountable and ask for a public plan to close its Iowa coal plants by 2030. Visit www.CleanUpMidAm.com for more information.
- carbon pollution
- clean energy