DES MOINES, IOWA (August 18, 2022) — Rather than building a generation system that tackles the climate crisis while lowering costs, MidAmerican’s latest proposal to the Iowa Utilities Board asks customers to foot the bill for two systems: Wind and coal. Increasing solar and storage, as many utilities around the country are doing, would allow MidAmerican to prudently transition its five Iowa coal plants into retirement while building a less risky and more affordable grid that is better for Iowans' health and pocketbooks.
These are the key messages in testimony filed on Friday, July 29, 2022, on behalf of environmental groups Iowa Environmental Council, Environmental Law and Policy Center, and Sierra Club.
National electricity expert Devi Glick of Synapse Energy Economics testified on the groups’ behalf that "Wind PRIME will create a wind- and coal-heavy system that MidAmerican rate-payers will be locked into for the next few decades."
Synapse's testimony states that while wind continues to be an excellent low-cost energy resource, "If MidAmerican was serious about resource-diversity, it would be considering more solar PV, energy efficiency, battery storage, and other firm peaking resources. A diverse resource portfolio can better meet system needs and also increase system reliability."
MidAmerican wrote its plan without using the level of analysis applied by other utilities across the country, including other utilities owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy. With better analysis, MidAmerican and its customers will be better able to see how the company could save customers money by adding more solar and storage and closing its five expensive, polluting, outdated coal plants.
Steve Guyer, Energy Policy Manager for the Iowa Environmental Council, testified that "MidAmerican has not compared the Wind PRIME projects to any other reasonable portfolios of resource additions," despite legal requirements to do so. He further testified that "it is quite possible that an alternative set of resource additions would provide far greater benefits to customers."
"Wind will continue to be a critical cost-saving resource and economic development tool for Iowa. But Iowa also has tremendous solar potential, and today utilities around the country are also adding thousands of megawatts of battery storage to their systems in a shift to retire outdated and expensive coal plants. MidAmerican has not even considered whether adding storage and more solar to its system could provide savings to customers," said Kerri Johannsen, Energy Program Director with the Iowa Environmental Council.
"MidAmerican cannot be a leader of the clean energy transition while continuing to run one of the largest coal fleets in the country," said Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. He added, "MidAmerican should be looking to make renewable energy investments that will facilitate resource diversity, reliability, and retirement of uneconomic, polluting coal plants."
Iowa’s continued generation with coal-fired power plants remains one of the state's largest contributions to carbon-dioxide emissions. The size of MidAmerican’s coal fleet makes it the single largest carbon polluter in the state and the utility remains one of the twenty largest utility companies in the nation with no climate commitment or emissions reductions target. Retiring just George Neal North and South would be the carbon equivalent of taking more than 750,000 cars off the road, yet it still reflects only 17% of MidAmerican’s carbon emissions from coal.
Data from the US Energy Information Administration via S&P Global Market Intelligence details that MidAmerican ranks fourteenth in the volume of coal generation by a US operating company while parent company Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s (BHE) western utility subsidiary PacifiCorp ranks first. When combined, these companies place BHE ranked fourth in the volume of coal-generated power by US parent companies.
The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) is the Midwest's leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. We develop strategic campaigns to protect natural resources and improve environmental quality. Our multi-disciplinary staff employs teamwork approaches using legal, economic, and public policy tools to produce successes that improve our environment and economy. Learn more at www.elpc.org.
The Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) is an alliance of diverse organizations and individuals working together to protect Iowa's natural environment. Founded in 1995, it is the largest and most comprehensive environmental coalition in the state. Through education, advocacy and coalition building, the Council raises awareness, generates action and creates large-scale change that makes Iowa a better place to live, work and explore. Learn more at iaenvironment.org.