Tag Archives: wind power

Clearing barriers to clean energy

solar_energy_Iowa is a national wind energy leader, solar has been gaining momentum in recent years, and both have significant potential for continued growth in the state. However, to facilitate growth and reap the many environmental, economic and community benefits of clean energy, Iowa must create policies and practices that encourage a transition to clean energy. This includes improving access and removing barriers – two priorities for the Council.

In the past year, Alliant Energy has informed some customers that they would not allow net metering, for third-party purchase agreements, a practical and popular financing option for solar energy projects. Last week, following objections from customers and clean energy advocates including the Council who believed this decision violated the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling last summer, Alliant informed these customers that is has decided to reverse this decision.

“Without net metering, which lets customers to bank excess power for later use, many of these projects would not be financially viable,” said Energy Program Director Nathaniel Baer. “As a result of this reversal, more Iowans will be able to move forward with solar projects and realize the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy.”

The Council joined coalition partners including the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association (ISETA), Iowa Interfaith Power & Light (Iowa IPL), Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Winneshiek Energy District submitted comments to the Iowa Utilities Board opposing Alliant’s original refusal to net-meter third party purchase agreements earlier this summer.

While this move helped avert a substantial hurdle for many solar energy projects, it’s not the only barrier the Council and its allies have been battling this summer. In June, Pella Cooperative Electric announced it will charge customers with solar panels or other sources of self-generated energy a “facilities fee” of $85 per month – more than three times the $27.50 “facilities fee” for other customers.

Pella Cooperative Electric cites a “cost-of-service study” conducted earlier this year that concluded these customers were not paying their share of the fixed costs of maintaining the grid. This study has been difficult to obtain for review and is unlikely to properly value all of the benefits provided by solar.

Pella’s current $27.50 monthly fee is already high compared to what other utilities in Iowa typically charge, and the $85 fee is extreme. Utilities around the U.S. have been proposing these high fixed charges as one way to stop customers from moving to solar.

Clean energy advocates, including the Council, ELPC, ISETA, Iowa ILP, SEIA, Vote Solar, Bryce Engbers and Mike Lubberden, submitted comments to the Iowa Utilities Board asserting that the decision violates an Iowa Code prohibiting discrimination against a customer based on the customer’s choice to use renewable energy.

“As we continue to make progress for clean energy at the legislature, in rulemaking and the courts, I think we’re going to continue to see these utility efforts to make it more difficult to bring clean energy projects online,” Baer said. “However, support for clean energy in the state is strong, and it is diverse. The more we are able to leverage our collective voice and influence, the more successful we will be in overcoming these obstacles and transitioning to clean energy.”

Report finds Clean Power Plan will boost Iowa economy, create jobs

Today, the Iowa Wind Energy Association released The Economic Impact of Iowa’s Wind Potential to Meet Carbon Reduction Goals, a report showing an increase in the demand for wind energy – spurred by the Clean Power Plan – will translate to expanded job creation and economic development in Iowa.

Depending on the amount of wind installed in Iowa over the next 15 years, Iowa could create an average of 483 to 6,424 wind-related jobs each year, and as many as 10,992 jobs during the peak year of wind turbine installment.

The report, authored by Dave Swenson, an associate scientist in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University, lays out an economic impact analysis of four wind energy scenarios for using wind energy to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, released earlier this week. By establishing state-specific carbon pollution reduction goals based on each state’s energy portfolio, the Clean Power Plan will cut 32% of carbon pollution from U.S. power plants by 2030 (from 2005 levels).

“The Clean Power Plan presents a huge economic opportunity for Iowa,” said Climate and Energy Policy Specialist Cindy Lane. “As a national wind energy generation and manufacturing leader, we have the resources and infrastructure to meet our own goal, and help other states meet their goals. This report provides a clear picture of how the Clean Power Plan can benefit Iowa by creating jobs and adding value to our economy.”

The final Clean Power Plan calls for Iowa to reduce its carbon pollution rate to 1,283 lbs/MWh by 2030, a slight increase from the originally proposed 1,301 lbs/MWh. At the end of 2014, wind energy accounted for 28.5 % of Iowa’s electrical generation – the highest of any state.

“Iowa’s early actions to transition to cleaner energy will be further encouraged under the final Clean Power Plan,” Lane noted. “In short, Iowa can get a jumpstart on meeting its carbon reduction goal by submitting a timely, state plan and investing early in 1) renewable energy projects and 2) energy efficiency projects implemented in low income communities. The sooner that Iowa submits a final state plan detailing its Clean Power Plan implantation strategy, the sooner Iowa can get credit for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that are constructed/implemented after that date. These early credits can be banked, and counted toward carbon pollution reduction requirements during 2022-2029.”

Scenarios in the report evaluate wind installation levels starting at 2,320 MW and ending at 15,000 MW – all well within Iowa’s wind capacity; recent studies show 20,000 MW could be developed by 2030. Labor income totals could reach up to $114 million in the first year, and have the potential to grow to $594 million by 2030. Value added to the economy could hit $2.1 billion by 2030, bringing the final total output to as much as $3.56 billion in the final year.

“The Clean Power Plan will improve our economy, protect and support our communities, safeguard our working lands and strengthen our energy independence – Iowa really is in an ideal position,” Lane said.

The full report is available for download on the IWEA website.

Analysis shows Iowa well-prepared for Clean Power Plan

In anticipation of the expected August release of the final Clean Power Plan, which will establish the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the Council has been evaluating various options for Iowa to reduce carbon pollution to comply with the final standard.

Iowa’s leadership in wind energy has already cut carbon pollution and positioned the state to comply with its proposed 16% reduction goal. However, other actions resulting in carbon pollution reductions (including the retirement of older coal plants, the conversion of coal plants to natural gas, and the maintenance of modest energy efficiency programs) need to be evaluated, as well as Iowa’s potential to comply with a stronger reduction goal.

To conduct this analysis, Council staff used a publicly available modeling tool from Synapse Energy Economics to quantify the emissions reductions from five key actions that are already reducing carbon emissions in Iowa or will reduce emissions before 2020:

  • Construction of 1,964 MW of wind per three MidAmerican wind projects (Wind VIII, IX and X) and one Alliant wind project;
  • Retirement of 940 MW of old, inefficient coal plants (including CIPCO Fair Station, MidAmerican Neal North 1 & 2 and Walter Scott 1 & 2, Alliant Lansing 3, Dubuque 3 & 4, and Sutherland 1 & 3, and Pella);
  • Conversion of 497 MW of old coal plants to natural gas (including Ames 7 & 8, Alliant Kapp, MidAmerican Riverside, and Corn Belt Earl Wisdom);
  • Continuation of existing utility efficiency programs saving a modest 1% of retail sales annually;
  • Construction of a more efficient natural gas combined cycle power plant by Alliant Energy in Marshalltown
Impact of existing and planned changes on Iowa’s rate of carbon emissions Synapse CP3T v. 1.4 results, prepared by the Iowa Environmental Council, July 2015

Impact of existing and planned changes on Iowa’s rate of carbon emissions
Synapse CP3T v. 1.4 results, prepared by the Iowa Environmental Council, July 2015

Iowa’s baseline emissions rate in 2012 was 1,552 lbs/MWh. The EPA’s proposed 16% reduction is 1,301 lbs/MWh. The five actions analyzed above bring Iowa’s emissions to 1,105 lbs/MWh, well below the proposed EPA goal. This means that Iowa will likely be in compliance with the 2030 goal as early as 2020.

If the final goal is stronger, modest additional actions will allow Iowa to comply. To evaluate Iowa’s compliance potential using energy efficiency and wind energy alone, the Council used a publicly available modeling tool from MJ Bradley & Associates.

If Iowa’s reduction goal is approximately 29% rather than 16%, Iowa would need to reduce its emissions rate to 1,103 lbs/MWh by 2030. Iowa could reach this goal by adding 22 MW of wind per year and maintaining a 1% annual energy efficiency savings from 2020-2029. If Iowa’s goal is even stronger– a 42% reduction – Iowa would need to reduce its emissions rate to 906 lbs/MWh by 2030. Iowa could comply by adding 170 MW of wind per year and maintaining a 1% annual energy efficiency saving from 2020-2029. These actions are readily achievable: From 2008 through 2015, Iowa averaged over 635 MW in wind capacity additions annually and has seen over 1,000 MW of wind constructed in a single year.

Per these evaluations, as well as those of several other clean energy experts, Iowa is well-equipped to meet its proposed 16% carbon reduction goal or a significantly stronger goal. Regardless of the final goal, we look forward to working with the state’s leaders to shape a strong implementation plan that maximizes Iowa’s potential for renewable energy growth and energy efficiency savings.

Meet our member organizations: Windward Iowa

Here at the Iowa Environmental Council, we rely on the partnerships we form and the relationships we build. As a coalition-based organization, we firmly believe that when we work together, we will achieve greater success, and our member organizations and individual members are essential. This is the third installment of our new series: meet our member organizations.

logo-leaf-150x151Each entry, we will introduce you to one of our member organizations and share some information about how they are helping create a safe, healthy environment and a sustainable future for Iowa. This time, we would like to introduce you to Windward Iowa.

Windward Iowa is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting wind energy and infrastructure projects in Iowa and across the Midwest. They achieve this by providing education about the benefits of wind energy, and promoting growth in wind energy usage.

“We were formed to provide an unbiased source of information about wind energy,” said President Craig Lang. “We speak at events and meetings, talking to people about the benefits of wind energy.”

Iowa ended 2014 with over 5,700 MW of installed wind energy that accounts for 28.5% of the state’s electrical generation – more than any other state, and hundreds of jobs have been created. Wind energy is clean and effective, and turbine blades can be turned in as little as five miles per hour wind.

“Even though wind energy is abundant in Iowa, we are still realizing its true potential,” Lang said. “Wind energy has legitimate, positive economic and environmental impacts in Iowa. We use less water, we pay less for energy, we reduce our pollutants and we efficiently capture easily available energy.”

Lang wants to see the use of wind energy increase in future generations.

“We need to build for the future, to keep future generations of wind energy workers here in Iowa,” Lang said. “If we don’t stay competitive, our energy prices will rise, and the next generation of clean energy workers will leave Iowa.”

Windward Iowa joined the Council as a member organization last year.

“Our partnership with the Council helps spread our message and gives it credibility,” Lang said. “We know the Council has had many years of experience protecting the environment, and they will help us bring more wind energy to the state of Iowa.”

Amplifying Iowa’s wind power

Wind XIowa’s wind energy leadership has created significant economic, community and environmental benefits for the state, but there is huge potential for additional wind energy. Thanks in part to continued advocacy for wind energy growth, utility companies are taking notice and investing in clean energy.

In May, we welcomed announcements from Alliant Energy to add 200 MW of wind and by MidAmerican Energy to build 552 MW of wind. When MidAmerican filed its official proposal – Wind X – with the Iowa Utilities Board, we joined with the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) to intervene and file testimony in support of the proposal.

Iowa ended 2014 with over 5,700 MW of installed wind energy that accounts for 28.5% of the state’s electrical generation, the highest of any state. Iowa’s wind energy potential is over 570,000 MW, and recent national studies indicate that 20,000 MW could be developed by 2030, and 37,000 to 46,000 MW by 2050. Wind X is an important step to reaching these goals, meeting more of our energy needs with clean energy, and reducing our reliance on coal.

Despite its leadership in wind energy, coal still accounts for the largest share of MidAmerican’s electricity. Importing coal costs MidAmerican’s customers approximately $285M annually, and the state of Iowa $590M annually. Wind X will directly reduce coal use and the associated costs, as well as cut emissions of carbon and other pollutants.

By doing so, Wind X will help MidAmerican – and Iowa – prepare to comply with the proposed Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standard to reduce carbon pollution – our country’s largest source of carbon pollution – from existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan establishes state-specific carbon reduction goals based on each state’s energy portfolio. Based on 2012 carbon pollution levels, Iowa’s proposed cut in carbon pollution from power plants is 16%. As a wind energy leader, Iowa is well-positioned to meet its goal.

Recent wind projects have already helped reduce MidAmerican’s rate of carbon emission from 1,168 lbs/MWh to 1,030 lbs/MWh. Wind X would further reduce the rate to 940 lbs/MWh or even lower. Thanks to its wind leadership, MidAmerican is ahead of schedule and can help the state – or even other states – meet these targets.

In addition to expressing our support for Wind X, our testimony encouraged MidAmerican to more thoroughly consider adding solar energy when it builds its next clean energy project. We reviewed MidAmerican data showing that its energy demand peaks occur in the summer and during the day, typically between the hours of noon and 6 pm. A typical solar array in Iowa can be expected to produce very well during such times, meaning solar can help MidAmerican meet energy needs when demand is at its highest.

We will continue to advocate, shape and voice our support for Wind X and projects like it, and build a broad base of support for the Clean Power Plan and a strong implementation plan that will benefit Iowa’s economy and environment.