Guest Columnist

Iowa shouldn't cede clean energy leadership

Snow covers some of the panels on a 72.5kW solar field at Farmers' Electric Cooperative in Kalona on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Snow covers some of the panels on a 72.5kW solar field at Farmers' Electric Cooperative in Kalona on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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My business, Ideal Energy, combines solar, battery storage and efficient LED lighting to create energy savings for our customers. So, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of energy efficiency programs for my growing business and energy customers.

Guest columnist David Osterberg hit the nail on the head in his Feb. 27 column on Senate File 2311, a bill under consideration by the Iowa Legislature. The proposal would significantly scale back or even eliminate energy efficiency programs that have benefitted Iowa’s job and economic growth.

Every dollar invested in energy efficiency saves two dollars per customer in energy cost, and Iowa jobs in clean energy grew nearly 12 times faster than overall jobs in 2016. According to Environmental Entrepreneurs’ 2017 Clean Jobs Midwest report, there are now more than 30,000 clean energy jobs across Iowa — two-thirds of which are in energy efficiency.

But this bill threatens that growth by making efficiency programs optional, and by rewarding utilities for producing more power instead of lowering costs that could save Iowa businesses and families money. For example, according to MidAmerican’s and Alliant’s 2016 annual reports, efficiency programs have eliminated the need for two and a half new 500 MW power plants since 2009.

Osterberg correctly points out this proposal makes no sense when Iowa has benefited from building one of the strongest clean energy economies in the Midwest.

Simply put, SF 2311 will result in Iowans missing out on the economic benefits of energy efficiency while ceding clean energy leadership to surrounding states like Minnesota and Illinois, which are doubling down on investment with their own policies.

• Troy Van Beek is a former U.S. Navy Seal and founder and CEO of Ideal Energy in Fairfield.

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Editor’s Note: SF2311 was amended just before the funnel deadline. In its current version, which may not be the final version, the energy efficiency program was capped at 2 percent of a customer’s electric or natural gas bill. The Iowa Utilities Board estimates, for customers of rate-regulated electric utilities, the program would be significantly cut from $162 million to $66 million a year if the cap is implemented.

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