MidAmerican Energy’s renewable claims are misleading, green groups say

Source: By Jeffrey Tomich, E&E News • Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The utility said it delivered 100 percent renewable energy to Iowa customers in 2022, despite coal use.

MidAmerican Energy's George Neal power plant near Sioux City, Iowa.

MidAmerican Energy’s George Neal power plant near Sioux City, Iowa. Clean Up MidAm Coalition/PR Newswire

Environmental groups are accusing Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy of misleading the public, pointing to the utility’s claims that it supplied 100 percent renewable power to customers while operating a half-dozen coal plants.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and the Iowa Environmental Council made the argument in comments last week to the Iowa Utilities Board. The claim, which MidAmerican disputes, shines a light on how utilities communicate their energy supply mix, as many establish goals to reach 100 percent renewable energy or net-zero carbon emissions.

MidAmerican generated 23 percent of its power in 2022 by burning fossil fuels, according to the groups’ filing. But in a September 2023 press release, the utility said it delivered “100% renewable energy to serve its Iowa customers’ electricity usage last year.”

Josh Mandelbaum, a senior attorney for the ELPC and member of the Des Moines City Council, said a 2017 rule meant to ensure independent verification of utilities’ renewable energy claims instead serves to legitimize them. The Iowa Utilities Board has proposed rescinding the rule, which requires regulators to verify how much of utilities’ energy supply comes from renewable resources.