Survey of Iowa Energy Efficiency Contractors Reveals Negative Business Outlook, Job Cuts Due to 2018 Utility Legislation

posted on Monday, January 21, 2019 in Energy News

Senate File 2311 causing drop in sales, departure of skilled staff 

Des Moines, Iowa – Survey results released today by the Iowa Environmental Council show that more than 74% of energy efficiency employers in Iowa expect the severe cuts to utility efficiency programs adopted by the legislature in the 2018 Legislative Session to hurt their business. More than half expect the cuts to result in layoffs over the next six to 12 months.

Senate File 2311 cut electric efficiency programs by almost 50% and gas efficiency programs by 80% for customers of MidAmerican, Alliant Energy, and Black Hills Energy. It also removed requirements that municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives provide energy efficiency programs.

The survey results showed that 19% of companies surveyed have already laid off employees and 23% saw skilled employees leave the company to look for other opportunities because of SF 2311.

"We are disappointed, but not at all surprised, to see the impact the extreme cuts to efficiency programs have had on Iowa energy efficiency retailers, manufacturers, and contractors," said Kerri Johannsen, Energy Program Director with the Iowa Environmental Council. "Highly-skilled workers have choices and the energy efficiency industry is booming in neighboring states. It only makes sense that they would pursue opportunities elsewhere given Iowa's shift away from reducing energy waste."

Nearly 84% of the businesses surveyed stated that they expect lower sales in the next six to 12 months. 53% expect they may be faced with laying off employees and almost 40% expect to see more employees leave. Less than two percent of companies expect to be hiring.

"Energy efficiency programs support small businesses and our community members. A lot of my customers would not be able to make needed efficiency upgrades to their homes without these rebate programs. The ability to insulate makes a home more comfortable – warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer – while making energy expenses more affordable. Our policymakers can make a difference by returning support to the programs, which aid the Iowans most in need and encourage the growth of the small businesses that deliver these essential services," said Matthew Thomas of Prevailing Resources, an insulation company based in Ankeny.

The results of the survey reflect the uncertainty and expectations of businesses and workers in the industry as the energy efficiency plans proposed by Alliant and MidAmerican to comply with SF 2311 are still before the Iowa Utilities Board for consideration. The pared-back plans do not officially take effect for several more months, so the true impacts of the cuts will not be felt by businesses and customers until later this year. 

"This is just a preview of the job-killing impacts we will see when 2018's anti-efficiency, anti-jobs legislation is fully implemented," said Johannsen, "Iowa's small businesses deserve better."

The results were from an email survey of Iowa energy efficiency contractors conducted between December 4, 2018, and January 4, 2019, by The Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology at Iowa State University on behalf of the Iowa Environmental Council.