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

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 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. 


Sonita van der Leeuw, a Clean Energy Field Organizer with IEC and 100% Iowa, spent the last several months organizing around the Des Moines franchise agreement renewal. She shared her thoughts and lessons learned following the process in a new guest blog for Iowa Interfaith Power and Light. 


Iowa Energy News 

Legislature votes to pay down the State Solar ITC Waitlist 

Last year, the Iowa legislature failed to extend the State Solar Investment Tax Credit, leaving many Iowans without the credit they were promised when they invested in their solar project. 

After an extended session, the Iowa legislature adjourned last night, marking an end to the 2022 Iowa legislative session. In its final hours, legislators passed an amendment to pay down the waitlist for the State Solar ITC

The Governor has 30 days to approve Senate File 2367, but with the amendment included as part of a larger tax bill, she's expected to sign it. The passage marks a win for solar support and advocacy here in Iowa. IEC will monitor that process and provide updates as necessary. 

IEC Presents to Climate Action Commission in Iowa City

100% Iowa City, a community-driven movement to make Iowa City the next 24/7 carbon-free energy city launched this spring to urge the City Council to commit to a path towards 100% clean electricity. While Iowa City's existing net-zero goal would reduce emissions and then compensate for the remaining using carbon offsets, a 24/7 carbon-free energy goal would avoid emitting carbon in the first place. 

IEC energy staff presented to members of Iowa City’s Climate Action Commission at its meeting on May 2, to discuss the goal and its pathway forward for Iowa City. The commission acts as an advisory board to the city council and is responsible for guiding the direction of the city’s climate and sustainability goals, including the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. 

Understanding Climate Anxiety with Krista Hiser

Earlier this month, IEC staff participated in a session on processing climate anxiety. The workshop was facilitated by Krista Hiser, professor and the director of the Hawaii Center for Sustainability Across the Curriculum. 

"Sometimes it seems like 'regular' people don’t know or don’t care about climate change, but that is really just a defense mechanism. There are very few actual “deniers” anymore. But there are lots of climate 'avoiders,'" writes Hiser a guest blog for IEC

"Climate reality does NOT mean being a doomer or giving up or that it’s hopeless to do the work that IEC and its members do," she continues. "Every single thing we do matters right now and for future generations."


Watch Now: Community Demands Climate Action 

The Des Moines City Council met for the first of three readings on Monday, May 9 for the MidAmerican Energy franchise agreement renewal. During that meeting, public comment was allowed and fifty residents lined up to speak out and call for a reasonable agreement, with opt-out clauses, to keep MidAmerican committed to the city's climate goals. IEC was inspired by these voices and their persistent calls for meaningful action. Watch the full discussion here

Upcoming Energy Events

5/24-5/25: Sustainable Economy & Transportation Conference, Alliant Energy

5/26: Solar Energy Lunch & Learn - Mason City, Eagle Point Solar 

5/26: Equity Centered Local Climate Action Planning, Environmental Law Institute

5/31: Connecting the Issues: Air Pollution, Climate Change, and Our Health, Elders Climate Action

6/5: 2022 Rooftop Concert - Power of the SunDubuque County Energy District

6/17-6/18: CCE Environmental Expo, Mitchell County Conservation Board

Have an upcoming event we don't have listed here? Send it to us at iecmail@iaenvironment.org

505 Fifth Ave. Suite 850 
Des Moines, Iowa 50309-2317

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