December 15, 2021
DES MOINES — Analysis filed today with the Iowa Utilities Board shows that MidAmerican Energy could save Iowans nearly $1.2 billion by retiring all of its coal plants by 2030.
The analysis, independently conducted by Synapse Energy on behalf of the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC), Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), and Sierra Club, concluded that replacing the coal plants with renewable resources, such as wind, solar, and battery storage, was the most cost-effective option while ensuring reliable service to customers.
Massachusetts-based Synapse Energy Economics has provided similar independent analysis for numerous utility, nonprofit, and governmental clients across the globe over the last 25 years, including the U.S. Department of Energy and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“These savings are consistent with studies across the country: coal is on its way out because it is simply too expensive. MidAmerican needs to do the responsible thing for customers and commit to retiring all of its plants by 2030 and replacing them with clean energy,” said Katie Rock, Beyond Coal Campaign Representative for Sierra Club.
The Iowa Utilities Board requested information from MidAmerican Energy about its plans for electric generation, including analysis of the most cost-effective option to provide reliable, affordable power to customers. MidAmerican did not provide any estimates of the costs or savings of retiring its coal fleet compared to replacement with clean energy and has fought to prevent sharing relevant information with IEC and other parties, holding certain information as privileged even from the Board. The Synapse analysis shows how critical it is for the Iowa Utilities Board to take the necessary next steps.
“MidAmerican should act in the best interest of its customers. If it doesn’t, the Utilities Board needs to step in,” said Josh Mandelbaum, Senior Attorney for ELPC. “MidAmerican has not been transparent with the Board or its customers. It’s time to take a closer look at what MidAmerican plans to do and whether its decisions are reasonable.”
The Synapse Energy analysis modeled costs across Iowa through 2040 to evaluate potential savings. The analysis considered different types of generation each year, concluding that the coal plants should be replaced with approximately 2,000 MW of solar generation, 740 MW of battery storage, and 2,000 MW of supplemental wind power.
MidAmerican customers would receive a majority of the savings (roughly $1.2 billion), but all Iowans would benefit from the transition because wholesale energy prices would be lower.
The model suggested retiring the Walter Scott Energy Center Unit 3 (Council Bluffs) in 2024, Ottumwa Generating Station in 2024, the George Neal units (near Sioux City) in 2025, Louisa Generating Station in 2026, and Walter Scott Unit 4 in 2030.
“This analysis makes it clear that the goal of carbon-free electricity by 2035 makes sense for both Iowa’s economy and environment. MidAmerican should make a plan now that will save customers over a billion dollars while allowing coal plant workers and communities time to plan for the transition,” said Kerri Johannsen, Energy Program Director for IEC. “MidAmerican needs to step up for the benefit of Iowa communities and customers.”