Iowa Public Radio
About one-third of our nation’s carbon pollution comes from generating electric power. How we produce that power, and how much we generate, has a profound impact on our environment and the economy. Over the past 20 years, clean energy has grown into an important portion of the Midwest’s electricity mix. In vast swaths of the region, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are now the lowest-cost ways to generate electricity, supporting thousands of workers in communities of all sizes. For example, 42% of Iowa’s electricity comes from wind energy alone.
While the Midwest has a strong foundation in clean energy, we still have a lot to do. As the transportation sector increasingly electrifies, the system must be ready to incorporate new opportunities, while continuing to decarbonize. Utilities, power generators, and state agencies play important roles in energy planning and distribution. With thoughtful policies, innovative technology, and energy efficiency efforts, we could see a large-scale shift to clean energy, to reduce pollution and create jobs.
In 1983, Iowa adopted the nation’s first RES, which set a goal for utilities to generate a certain percentage of the state’s electricity needs from renewable energy. Since then, many neighboring states have adopted similar standards, which have been pivotal to the early growth of renewable energy. Illinois and Minnesota are now planning over 25% renewable energy by 2025. ELPC helps design and advance these and other policies at the state level. Once adopted, we work with state utility commissions to design strong implementation rules, which are essential to realizing the policy’s intent.
Many of the Midwest’s largest utilities are planning to wind down their use of fossil fuels as they ramp up renewable energy, not out of altruism but because the economics make sense. For example, the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. plans to be coal-free by 2028 and Michigan’s Consumers Energy is planning for 56% renewable energy by 2040. Unfortunately, many other utilities are still relying on old ways of thinking and outdated dirty fossil fuels. ELPC intervenes in rate cases and long-term planning processes to ensure renewable energy is fully and fairly considered as a viable option to support the Midwest’s energy needs. Our work includes expert policy analysis and testimony, as well as coordination with our clean energy and public health allies throughout the nation. Read more about our work on grid transformation and Michigan’s DTE Energy.
Coal combustion produces smog, soot, acid rain, and mercury pollution, which contaminates the air and water in many communities. Although natural gas burns somewhat cleaner than coal, its extraction and transportation present additional environmental and public health concerns, and after the Enbridge oil spill devastated Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, many communities are wary of oil pipelines through critical waterways like the headwaters of the Mississippi and the Straits of Mackinac. ELPC is fighting to clean up or shut down dirty fossil fuel facilities while highlighting financial and scientific analysis that shows renewable energy is the most cost-effective and healthy option for the Midwest.
ELPC compiles reports each year to document the breadth of the clean energy supply chain in the Midwest. Each report lists and maps the many businesses across a certain state, along with feature stories and policy recommendations.