Iowa creating state energy plan that may focus on efficiency

As Iowa embarks on crafting its first-ever state energy plan, one of the leaders in the effort said he hopes the exercise will put a spotlight on the question of consumption.

“I think the focus has been on supply,” said Pat Meyer, who along with Iowa Lt-Gov. Kim Reynolds is co-chairing the process. “I’m trying to raise awareness on the demand side.”

Although Iowa has been a national leader in the production of such renewables as wind energy and fuels from organic wastes, Meyer said it’s just as important to develop strategies for minimizing the need for energy.

At the Pella Corporation, where the announcement was made Tuesday afternoon and where Meyer is the president and CEO, energy use has been cut substantially in recent years. Since 2010, Meyer said, the manufacturer of windows and doors has reduced energy use by a total of 24 million kilowatt hours. He believes similar reductions in energy use can happen across the state.

The energy environment is a factor in attracting and retaining business, said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“We want to make sure we have a competitive portfolio to offer (businesses) to persuade them to locate in the state,” she said, and pointed out that Iowa’s abundant wind energy was one factor that convinced Facebook to build a data center in Altoona. A few months ago, Facebook announced that it would construct a third building at the site.

At the Tuesday event in Pella, Reynolds and Meyer announced that the state has hired the Inova Energy Group and the Battelle Memorial Institute to gather information and deliver a plan by November, 2016. The cost is estimated at about $500,000. The initiative is a joint action of a couple of state agencies and the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress (IPEP), a group representing Iowa businesses.

The plan likely will include goals, strategies, and policy recommendations, some of which may require legislation, said Tina Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

The authority houses the state’s energy division, which supports a variety of energy initiatives.

“As we move forward with the programs we have, it became clear that having a forward-looking plan would benefit our state, something intentional and comprehensive,” Hoffman said. “And because the IPEP echoed that, we are where we are today.”

The plan is to address four aspects of energy: economic development and energy careers, the state’s energy resources, transportation and infrastructure, energy efficiency and conservation. Working groups will be formed around each of those themes to provide input, review data and help shape the goals and strategies of the energy plan.

The plan is intended to reflect the views of a wide range of interested parties, and applications for the working groups are now available now at www.iowaenergyplan.org. Five forums will be held throughout the state to gather input.

While the views of Iowans will play a large role, Meyer said data will also be a major factor. Before Iowa can use less energy, it has to know where energy is being used now.

“We have to get the data back and talk about where the highest uses are,” he said. “In the U.S., 40 percent of energy use is to heat and cool buildings. Is that true in Iowa? That’s what we hope to uncover in this next year….seeing where the biggest opportunity for improvement is.”

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