Owned by the local members we serve, Iowa's electric cooperatives invest in a balanced mix of renewables and 24/7 energy sources in order to provide power that is safe, reliable and affordable. Electric co-ops in Iowa serve primarily rural areas and a large majority of our members are farmers or are directly connected to the ag industry. Co-op members care deeply about preserving our environment for future generations and those principles are present in local co-op board rooms where elected directors must make long-term decisions to balance the affordability and reliability of electricity with more sustainable sources of generation. Here are a few ways electric cooperatives are practicing environmental stewardship:
We believe the greenest kilowatt-hour is the one you never use. The electric cooperatives of Iowa focus many resources on promoting energy efficiency and encouraging memberss to take advantage of incentives and rebates that will save electricity and money. IAEC routinely files a 5-year energy efficiency plan on behalf of our member cooperatives. For the five years from 2010 – 2014, Iowa’s electric cooperatives invested more than $76 million toward energy efficiency, including education, energy audits, incentives and rebates. Incremental annual savings amount to over 300 million kilowatt-hours per year, which is 108% of our goal. Lifetime savings for the energy efficiency measures that were adopted by co-op members from 2010-2014 will amount to a savings of over 3.7 billion kilowatt-hours. Considering that the average household in Iowa uses roughly 11,000 kilowatt-hours per year, that adds up to a lot of savings!
As the cost of wind generation and solar generation decreases, these technologies become more viable for electric co-ops who work hard to balance affordability and reliability with cleaner sources of electricity. Generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts) which supply electricity to local distribution co-ops are investing in wind and solar generation which benefits everyone on the lines. Additionally, several Iowa electric co-ops offer community solar options to their members, where they pay a monthly subscription and receive credit on their account for the output of their solar panel(s). These members can access the benefits of solar generation without investing in the installation or maintenance of installing their own system. Several distribution cooperatives in Iowa pay retail electric rates to members who own private solar generation and dispatch excess generation onto the grid.
As more electric cooperatives move to digital meters, vehicle pollution is reduced because meter reading is automatic and no longer requires traveling to each individual meter for an accurate read. In the near future, these digital meters and "connected home" devices will provide users with real time usage data, enabling consumers to make quick and easy changes to electric consumption which will result in greater energy efficiency.
Today, there isn’t a cost-effective way to store electricity on a mass scale; electricity must be generated simultaneously as it is consumed which is why 24/7 generation sources like natural gas and coal are so critical. Intermittent generation sources like wind and solar generate electricity as long as the wind blows and the sun shines, but they are not reliable sources for continual, baseload power at this time. Advancements in power storage will make investments in wind and solar more affordable and sensible in the years ahead.
Avian and Raptor Protection
Several Iowa cooperatives have avian and raptor protection plans in place to equip poles and infrastructure with equipment to protect large birds from electrocution.