Iowa’s biggest utility aims to produce all its energy from renewable sources

Source: By The Associated Press • Posted: Monday, May 1, 2017

DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa’s largest utility is in the midst of a $3.6 billion investment in wind power with a goal of producing 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

MidAmerican Energy plans to build 1,000 more turbines over the next couple of years on top of the more than 2,000 it already has around the state, the Des Moines Register reported. When it’s completed, the utility’s share of its energy that comes from renewable sources will jump from 55 percent to nearly 90 percent.

“It would set a new precedent for the U.S.,” said Daniel Shurey, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst. “It will require a company that really knows what it’s doing. It will be challenging for them to provide security of supply, and that’s not something MidAmerican will take lightly.”

CEO Bill Fehrman said it will take about $2 billion and 550 turbines more to bring MidAmerican close to 100 percent. He said wind energy helps keep electricity costs down, adding that MidAmerican has agreed to freeze rates until at least 2029.

“There’s not another utility in the country — gas, water, cable, electric — that’s held rates steady for 12, 13 years,” he said.

He said MidAmerican’s rates have increased only once since 1998. They’re the ninth-lowest in the country. Des Moines-based MidAmerican is owned by Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway.

“A lot of that is because of the wind investment,” Fehrman said. “The beauty of wind is there’s no fuel costs. We will be able to virtually serve 89 percent of our customers’ needs with an energy resource that requires no fuel.”

Iowa’s other big power producer, Cedar Rapids-based Alliant Energy, expects its wind energy share will grow to about 30 percent within seven years.

Shurey said utilities are investing a lot in wind now because of the federal production tax credits. The subsidies are expected to phase out by 2020.