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Patchwork of Local Carbon Free Pledges Takes Shape in IA

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022   

Iowa is among the top states for wind energy, but it doesn't have a statewide goal to significantly reduce carbon emissions. So, local governments are stepping in to fill that void.

The City of Waterloo soon could consider a resolution to adopt a "24-7 carbon-free" energy plan. Supporters say that would essentially mean all the electricity used around the city would have zero connections to fossil fuels. Des Moines adopted a similar plan last last year.

Jordan Oster, Iowa Environmental Council energy outreach manager, said he hopes this movement picks up steam amid broader debates about how to address climate change.

"When climate action is ignored at the state level and stalled at the federal level," he said, "local governments can really be leaders in this space."

He sai a patchwork of local activity can put greater pressure on utilities to completely ditch fossil fuels. Nearly two dozen states have either adopted or are considering specific targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Iowa developed a Climate Action plan more than a decade ago, but it doesn't make the list for having a defined emissions goal for the coming years.

MidAmerican Energy serves most of Iowa, including Waterloo. Wind energy makes up most of the company's electricity, but Oster noted that it still operates a fleet of coal plants. He said he feels local demand for clean energy can help propel conversations about taking advantage of the state's clean-energy supply.

"There's a real switch that's happening," he said. "But what we're seeing with these local resolutions is really trying to bridge the gap and make sure that we have not carbon-neutral energy, but we have carbon-free energy."

In a wave of climate pledges from government agencies, he said, that distinction is important. Carbon
neutral strikes a balance between carbon dioxide emissions and offsetting them with other entities playing a big role. But Oster said municipalities should strive for aggressive approaches that involve powering up homes and business around the clock with clean energy. That counts on them to take more local action, including the use of electric vehicles in public transportation.


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