Alliant Energy’s renewable energy use in Iowa jumps in 2020

Source: By John Steppe, The Gazette • Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Utility plans to plant 1 million trees in Iowa, Wisconsin

Alliant Energy’s renewable energy use in Iowa jumps in 2020

A rotor assembly is moved into position as construction continues at Alliant Energy’s English Farms Wind Farm near Deep River, Iowa in January 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

More than 40 percent of Alliant Energy’s power sold in Iowa during 2020 came from renewable sources, according to a report released Tuesday, as the company continues toward its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The 43.8 percent of Iowa power from utilities in 2020 was up from 26.5 percent in 2019 and 9.9 percent in 2018.

Barbara Tormaschy, Alliant’s vice president and treasurer, said the increase was a result of newly installed wind projects in 2019 and 2020.

Alliant also unveiled its plans to plant 1 million trees — or about one tree per customer — in Iowa and Wisconsin over the next decade. Tormaschy noted shareholders will fund the trees, not customers.

“The goal of planting those trees is both to beautify the communities we live in to benefit our customers, but also to help us along a path to reaching the net-zero aspirational goal we have,” Tormaschy told The Gazette.

The company announced goals last year to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and eliminate use of coal by 2040.

Jeff Hanson, Alliant’s director of environmental services and corporate sustainability, said the utility is ahead of schedule on its 2040 coal elimination goal.

“It’ll happen before 2040,” Hanson said. “Maybe sometime in the mid-2030s.”

The coal plant in Ottumwa, which Alliant and Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy co-own, is the only plant Alliant operates that does not have plans to shut down or transition to natural gas.

Alliant is in “ongoing discussions” with MidAmerican about retiring the Ottumwa coal plant, Tormaschy said.

“We all have different goals and different financial analyses we have to run,” Tormaschy said.

The utility’s carbon emissions have dropped by 42 percent since 2005, which is up from 33 percent in the 2020 report, according to the latest report.

Water use, meanwhile, has fallen by 66 percent since 2005. That’s risen from “a little above 60 percent last year,” Hanson said.

Alliant’s goals are to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent and water use by 75 percent by 2030.

Tormaschy said Alliant has a “strong line of sight” to accomplishing both goals while the 2050 net-zero carbon goal remains more “aspirational.”

As the Madison, Wis.-based utility pursues further development of renewable energy sources, it eyes solar as a major opportunity. In 2020, solar energy accounted for 0.08 percent of power sold in Iowa.

The company announced plans to add 400 megawatts of solar energy in Iowa by 2023 last year.

Tormaschy sees opportunities for further wind development later this decade, too, although it “won’t be as soon as the solar” developments.

Wind energy already accounted for 35.42 percent of Alliant’s power sold in Iowa in 2020.