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Study addresses economic impact of closing coal-fueled power plants in Iowa

Originally posted on Thursday, October 7, 2021 in Energy News

Coal-fueled power plant jobs and spending are on the decline in Iowa, tied largely to shifts in the economics of renewable energy. The transition away from coal-fueled electric generation presents significant but manageable challenges to the seven communities where coal-fueled power plants are located, according to a new Iowa State University study.

The study, titled “The Economic, Fiscal, and Social Impacts of Utility-Owned Coal-Fired Power Plants in Iowa,” commissioned by the Iowa Environmental Council, analyzed the economic impact of the power plants to help local community leaders prepare for the future.

“Iowa’s energy generation system is changing, impacting the economies of communities where coal-fueled power plants are located,” said study author Eric Christianson, community and economic development specialist formerly with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

In 2010, 72 percent of Iowa’s electricity was produced by coal-fueled power plants located in the state. Last year, only 22 percent was generated by burning coal. As a result, coal-fueled power plant spending and jobs are on the decline.

One in seven coal power plant jobs in Iowa disappeared between 2016 and 2020, with employment dropping from 712 to 613 jobs. In the same timeframe, expenditures at the power plants were down about a third, falling from $525 million to $333 million. Those figures will decrease again next year when Alliant Energy closes its coal-fueled Lansing Generation Station located in Allamakee County in northeast Iowa. Alliant Energy has stated it will eliminate all coal-fueled power plants from its generation fleet by 2040.

“Proactive communities planning for this reality will be better positioned to manage any changes and even prosper from them,” Christianson said. “Community leaders who are not already preparing for the change should begin now.”

IEC is hosting virtual conversations in Iowa communities with a coal-fired generating plant. You will receive an invitation to attend the community meeting in if you live in one of these counties. We hope you will be able to attend.

IEC Energy News 

Updates on IEC Activities at the Iowa Utilities Board

IEC is continuing to advance our goal for 100% clean power by 2035 in Iowa through our work at the Iowa Utilities Board. Much of IEC’s work at the Iowa Utilities Board is awaiting further action.

In IEC’s appeal of MidAmerican’s Emissions Plan and Budget Update, we had oral arguments earlier this month and are awaiting a ruling from the Polk County District Court judge. Meanwhile, in the docket for MidAmerican’s long-term plans for its coal plants, we are waiting for the Board to decide what information will be available to interested parties.

In another docket, the Iowa Utilities Board recently approved the Coggon Solar project in Linn County. IEC intervened in that case to highlight the benefits of the project, including pollinator habitat, water quality improvements, and cleaner air.

Congress can bring more electric school buses to Iowa

With the federal infrastructure package still taking shape in Congress, IEC's energy program director Kerri Johannsen and Moms Clean Air Force's Iowa organizer Karin Stein teamed up to urge lawmakers to prioritize funding that will help Iowa transition its school bus fleet from diesel to electric engines. 

"In Iowa alone, 250,000 children ride school buses twice a day, every school day, on a total of about 3,000 buses. Most of these buses run on dirty diesel engines, spewing pollution that can cause cancer and trigger asthma attacks, while making climate change worse," they write in their latest opinion piece. 

Read the full story for a complete look at the benefits of electrifying Iowa's transportation sector, and the health benefits it will bring for Iowa's children. 

A New Foray Into Community Solar in Eastern Iowa

At the end of September, the Iowa Utilities Board approved Alliant Energy’s first community solar project in Iowa. Alliant has proposed to build a 4.5-megawatt solar array in Cedar Rapids to provide locally-generated energy for its customers. IEC sees this as a good first step into community solar for Alliant in Iowa. 

We hope the community solar model continues to grow in Iowa and that it is designed so that all customers can access it, regardless of income. States with well-developed community solar programs have more community solar generation capacity than all solar generation in Iowa today. There is definitely opportunity for Iowa to grow. Read more on the project, and IEC's recommendations for the expansion of community solar offerings on our blog.


Energy Equity in Iowa: An Academic Perspective

The newly released Energy Ratepayer Bill of Rights states firmly that Iowans need energy to survive and thrive. As clean energy resources increase, Iowa’s energy ratepayers must be afforded equitable and inclusive access to the benefits of a clean, efficient, and resilient energy system.

John-Paul Jones, Professor of Electrical & Renewable Energy at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, joined 100% Iowa for a conversation regarding equity in Iowa's clean energy transition. Watch the full interview on 100% Iowa's YouTube channel.

IEC Energy Events and Activities

Join fellow clean energy advocates and supporters on Thursday, November 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for IEC's annual program recognizing the benefits and discussing the future of clean energy for Iowa.

Bright Ideas 2021 will start with an interactive keynote address by Dr. Destenie Nock, Assistant Professor of Engineering & Public Policy and Civil & Environmental Engineering with Carnegie Mellon University, an awards presentation recognizing Iowa businesses and individuals practicing the promise of clean energy, plus a panel discussion and small group networking opportunities.

Get your tickets now for brunch in Des Moines, our satellite locations, or live streaming anywhere in Iowa.


GivingTuesday is an annual global day of generosity – this year taking place on November 30, 2021! This day is a movement, unleashing the power of giving to transform communities and the world.

This year, through the generosity of two IEC members, we have a $10,000 match! This means that for every dollar you donate, your impact on making Iowa a better place to live, work, and explore will be doubled!

As we approach this amazing day of giving, remember that your contribution makes our work around clean energy, clean water, and land stewardship possible.


IEC News

We're hiring! 

We've been busy advancing the clean energy transition in Iowa, and we are adding to our team! We have one part-time opening for our 100% Iowa project and our IEC energy program.
If you or someone you know values our mission and work,  visit our website to see the openings and learn how to apply.
Questions about any of the openings? Contact us at iecmail@iaenvironment.org. And thank you for your continued support that makes our work possible!

Help guide the future of IEC's work

IEC is embarking on strategic planning this winter. Our current strategic plan served us well these last years, but it’s time to set new goals and priorities for the coming years. A critical part of this process is hearing from our members and supporters about the Council’s work and its future.

We invite you to take a short survey to provide your feedback about the Council. The survey has ten questions and can be completed in 12 minutes. The survey does not ask for your contact information, and the survey results will be aggregated. We’d like to hear from you by midnight on Sunday, November 7.

Upcoming Energy Events

10/28 - ELPC Thinks: Electric School Busses, ELPC

10/29 - Let's Get Real24 Hours of Reality, The Climate Reality Project

11/4 - Building Partnerships Builds Power Fall Conference, Clean Grid Alliance

11/4 - Missed Opportunities: The Impact of Recent Policies on Energy Efficiency Programs in Midwestern States, MEEA

11/9 - Bookclub: Saving Us - A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope & Healing in a Divided World, Iowa IPL

11/9 - Emerging Energy Professionals Workshop, IAEE

11/9 - 11/10 - 2021 Iowa Energy Summit, IAEE

11/18 - IEC's Bright Ideas

12/1 - State Energy Planning Series: Policy Perspectives, MEEA

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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