Op-Ed: The red state with an energy blueprint

Source: By Kim Reynolds, The Hill • Posted: Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The red state with an energy blueprint

Renewable energy is at a crossroads.
I visited the White House late last month to present Iowa’s renewable energy successes and share the importance of energy innovation with President Trump.Right now, the reliability of the electric grid with renewable energy increases is under review. But I believe Iowa is a red state with a blueprint for the United States’ next steps.Iowa didn’t become an energy powerhouse by accident. Back in the 1980s, we enacted the nation’s first law incentivizing utilities that bought more renewable power.

That began decades of innovation and investment in Iowa’s energy sector. Fast forward to today where we’re now reaping the rewards: low-cost electricity, new jobs and support for rural communities.

Last year, nearly 37 percent of Iowa’s power came from wind. Wind energy brings 9,000 jobs and more than $13.5 billion in investments – and we’ve done it all without sacrificing price or reliability.

In fact, Iowa has the most reliable electric grid in the country, and the average energy cost for all sectors here is the sixth cheapest in the nation.

While I’m incredibly proud of Iowa’s energy innovation, we’re not the only state where wind works.

In Texas, South Dakota and Idaho, wind power makes up anywhere from 12 to 30 percent of electricity generated. Industry data shows these Republican-led states have added more than 36,000 jobs in wind (and solar) and more than $45 billion in economic activity. And in each of these states, the electric grid continues to deliver affordable, reliable power.

Renewable energy is a boost for rural America too. Iowa farmers and landowners get about $25 million annually in land lease payments for wind turbines, and local communities get significant property tax revenue to help build schools, repair bridges and hold the line on property taxes for businesses and residents.

Iowa isn’t just capitalizing on wind resources. We also have solar energy installations in nearly all of our 99 counties, and in many areas, farmers are the ones leading the way. By installing solar panels on their barns or in their fields, farmers save on energy bills and keep overhead stable during shifts in the agriculture economy.

Iowa’s renewable energy expansion isn’t just about electricity. It’s also an important economic development tool, helping attract major technology companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft while keeping costs low for existing industries.

We’ve found that renewable energy distinguishes Iowa from other industrialized states competing for projects. That’s why we don’t just mention wind energy on recruitment trips – we lead with it.

Some have tried to make renewable energy a partisan issue – but it shouldn’t be. More than two-thirds of the United States’ wind energy is produced in states that voted for Trump in November, and 73 percent of Trump voters think the country should use more clean energy in the future.

Renewable energy is one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy, but we’ve only just begun. Iowa’s combined wind and solar potential can meet our current electricity needs more than 150 times over.

There’s no question these technologies can be integrated affordably and reliably into the electric grid – and you don’t have to look any further than Iowa to see how it can be done well.

Kim Reynolds is the governor of Iowa, and a Republican. Reynolds previously served as lieutenant governor. Follow her on Twitter @KimReynoldsIA.