The not-for-profit electric cooperatives of Iowa are continually working to minimize our impact on the environment. Locally owned and operated, electric co-ops serve primarily rural areas and a large majority of our member-owners are farmers or are directly connected to the ag industry in some way. Our member-owners work the land and care very much about preserving our environment for future generations. Those principles carry through to our 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:
The most energy efficient kilowatt-hour is the one you never use. The electric cooperatives of Iowa focus many resources on promoting energy efficiency and encouraging member-owners to take advantage of incentives and rebates that will save electricity and money. Every five years, IAEC 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 over $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 member-owners 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 environmentally responsible sources of electricity. Generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts) which supply electricity to local distribution co-ops are investing in wind generation and some are building solar generation. Locally, several distribution cooperatives in Iowa pay retail electric rates to member-owners who own their own solar generation and put their excess generation onto the grid. Additionally, a few co-ops offer community solar options to their member-owners, 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.
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.
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.