Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Iowa’s 5 Biggest Renewable Energy Turkeys Of 2013

After enjoying Stephen Lacey’s post – “The 5 Biggest Clean Energy Turkeys of 2013”, I decided to rate Iowa’s own top 5 renewable energy gobblers this year. I have been watching Iowa energy policy for quite a while and there were no shortage of potential “winners” this year. Here are my nominations:  

1- MidAmerican energy company - for that company’s apparent lack of transparency on how they determine property tax rates for their wind projects in Iowa. Yes, no surprise that I would rate them as top turkey.  As noted in several previous posts, the utility sent me information that they negotiated much higher installed cost estimates with the Iowa Utilities Board than MEC was assessed on local property taxes. And it is very difficult for Iowan’s to access public information if they are concerned about their county and school district receiving proper revenue. If this is your first visit, please check the numerous posts here about what I learned so far.

2- Private Energy Companies with eminent domain power- Clean Line Energy is planning a HVDC line in Iowa. If the project proceeds, the company will register as an Iowa utility and have eminent domain authority to acquire land for the project. I’m opposed to allowing private companies to condemn land for their own purpose. So are a number of other Iowa farmers, and for that reason, the project seems to be generating  opposition in our state. Check the reader comments on the op ed linked above.

I’ve been watching efforts to stop the tar sands pipeline by several groups in Nebraska, by opposing that company’s use of eminent domain to gain right of way for Keystone XL.  I’ve been wondering for a while if those same groups (some with Iowa ties), will look the other way, or even support the use of eminent domain for wind transmission lines in Iowa. Hey, Opponents to, and advocates for both projects are using the same talking points.  Hmmm…

3- Iowa Senate leadership - Given my nominations above, these days, a lot of Iowa Farmers are interested in investing in their own wind and solar projects instead. The Iowa Senate let them down this year by declining to allow a floor vote on a bill to specifically allow farmer owned wind energy here. I wrote several posts about this when the senate was considering the bill. I just couldn’t write the epilogue about the bill when the senate bowed to utility pressure and “killed” farmer owned wind policy for another year.  This has been a recurring problem for many years in Iowa. Both of our political parties can share the blame for the lack of progress on this issue since the 1980s. However, this year, the award goes to Iowa senate Democrats.     

4 – Iowa energy advocates – For quite a while Iowa advocates who do like farmer - residential owned small scale wind, solar, and biomass, have been out-spent, and out lobbied by interests who like things just the way they are, thank you very much. You would think that after several years of this, advocates would work together and craft policy that addresses several of Iowa’s policy shortcomings, and send a united message to Iowa’s elected policy makers. That hasn’t happened. In fact, after reading this post about “building Science fight club”, I see similarities to Iowa energy advocates. Oops, I talked about “renewable energy fight club”, I will not, however, mention names, as I hope folks unite and improve this situation.

5 – Midwest renewable energy donors - Maybe I should have rated this group at number 4, as a number of the advocates above depend on them for their organization funding.  Iowa renewable policy looks the way it does because of the way these groups fund federal and state advocates. If you don’t like the way things are, and have contacts with any of these groups, maybe you should let them know. Maybe you should contact legislators and the media while you’re at it.  

So, that’s my list, I thought about including Iowa media outlets for their dismal coverage of Iowa renewables and climate policy, but, hey, you have to stop somewhere. 

That said, I’m really pretty thankful, despite sounding like quite a “downer” above. Iowa has moved the needle on renewables, and we’re really starting to debate how we want renewable policy to develop here.  That’s a good thing, and long overdue.  Iowa will be judged some day on how well we maximized the renewable energy opportunity to use the resources we were blessed with. Maybe we will actually do better than we’ve managed so far.               

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