Sierra Club: Iowa falls to fourth in wind power

Friday was the last day of public testimony before the Iowa Utilities Board on the proposed new coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown. The Sierra Club put out a release noting that while Iowa debates building more coal plants, other states in the region are overtaking us in wind power capacity.

Key excerpt:

“The difference is clearly policy,” said Mark Kresowik with the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign in Iowa.  “Illinois and Minnesota have passed policies that look to the future, such as Renewable Electric Standards, carbon dioxide reduction targets, and even a moratorium on new coal plants.  Iowa’s energy policy remains in the 20th century.”

Time for the Democratic-controlled legislature to do more on this front for Iowa. I’ve put the full text of the press release after the jump. It’s worth a read.

Sierra Club news release, January 18, 2008

As testimony on coal plant wraps up, Iowa falls to fourth in wind power

Des Moines, IA – As the final day of public testimony on a proposed coal plant in Marshalltown finishes, a new report by the American Wind Energy Association shows that Iowa’s leadership in wind power is falling compared to other states in the region.  Minnesota now has more capacity installed and both Illinois and Minnesota installed more wind power than Iowa in 2007.

“The difference is clearly policy,” said Mark Kresowik with the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign in Iowa.  “Illinois and Minnesota have passed policies that look to the future, such as Renewable Electric Standards, carbon dioxide reduction targets, and even a moratorium on new coal plants.  Iowa’s energy policy remains in the 20th century.”

This new report comes in sharp contrast to the proposed coal plant in Marshalltown, where groups including the Office of the Consumer Advocate are opposing the costly coal burning facility before the Iowa Utilities Board.

“The more Iowans get the facts about this proposed coal plant the more they agree with us,” said Carrie La Seur, President of Plains Justice, representing a coalition of energy and environmental groups opposed to the project.  “There are better answers for Iowa’s energy future.”

Yesterday’s testimony saw a number of witnesses who testified to the high cost of power from the plant in relation to alternatives of energy efficiency and renewable energy.  The day began with Scudder Parker, witness for the Office of the Consumer Advocate.

“By [Alliant’s] own numbers, [energy efficiency] costs 1 cent per kilowatt hour, which is quite favorable in comparison to the costs of the coal plant,” said Mr. Parker.  “It is resoundingly cost effective.  Maybe it is time to see energy efficiency as a serious resource acquisition strategy, at least to delay the plant and potentially to avoid it altogether.”

Tom Sanzillo, former First Deputy Comptroller for the State of New York, testified for the coalition represented by Plains Justice.  “This would be a very expensive addition to the electric system,” he said.  “Approving this plant will push residential rates, and all rate classes, upward unnecessarily.”

The testimony for those opposed to the plant concluded with Dr. Neil E. Harl, Iowa State University professor emeritus and the Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences.  “That’s five years away, and that’s the point where I think it becomes very uncertain what position ethanol will have,” said Dr. Harl about the proposed operation date of the coal plant, which Alliant Energy has claimed is necessary to serve growing demand for biofuels.  “I find it difficult – based on what we now know and what has been submitted to us – to say that we know enough to build a plant to serve load from biofuels five years from now.”  

  • Energy will be a test for Culver

    He campaigned on renewable energy, pushed for the Power Fund, and signed on to an agreement that might lead to a regional cap and trade system.  With all that, allowing one or two huge coal plants to be built would make his other actions seem quite hollow.  Why would you keep digging the greenhouse gas hole deeper when we all know more or less significant cuts will be needed fairly soon – through the feds if nothing else.  This is an opportunity for Culver to show real leadership, like Florida’s R guv.  If he stays on the sidelines and says nothing I will be extremely disappointed, but not surprised.

  • Iowa is still in better shape than Minnesota, folks.

    Minnesota has temporarily passed Iowa as far as generation output in wind energy, however, what your post does not say is that Iowa has more than three times the wind capacity under construction than Minnesota. So, Iowa will be back in third place in no time. As far as policy goes, Iowa is doing just fine. This issue has little to do with the coal-fired power plants.

    • I take your point

      but I think renewable energy advocates would disagree with your contention that Iowa is doing “just fine” on policy. We need an ambitious renewable portfolio standard, to cite just one example.

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