Nicole Welle | December 21, 2020
Iowa may be one of the nation’s leaders in renewable energy production, but the state fell short in this year’s national energy efficiency rankings, dropping 13 spots since 2019 and landing at #36. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the organization that created the rankings, says that poor state legislation is to blame.
In 2018, the state passed a bill that added restrictions to state energy efficiency programs. Another bill passed in 2019 placed caps on certain energy investments, and Iowa now gives customers the option to opt out of paying for energy efficiency programs that fail to pass a cost-effectiveness test. ACEEE also noted that Iowa lacks performance incentives for utilities, has not studied buildings’ compliance with energy efficiency standards since 2011 and has not updated conservation codes since 2012, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch.
All of these factors have stalled progress toward reducing gas and electricity use in Iowa and explain why Iowa took the biggest drop of any state on the list this year. However, ACEEE also noted that Iowa did adopt a new energy plan in 2016 that called for modernizing the electrical grid, promoting alternative-fuel vehicles, expanding natural gas service and increasing building efficiencies. The state is still working towards the goals outlined in that plan, and it is considering adopting the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as a baseline for building energy codes used in residential and commercial construction. It is currently working from the 2012 version of the IECC.
California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota were at the top of ACEEE’s list, and Kansas, Mississippi, and North Dakota were at the bottom. ACEEE’s rankings are based on transportation, utility and public benefits policies, state government initiatives and appliance and building efficiencies. States are given a score out of 50, and Iowa is currently below the national median score in every category, according to Iowa’s ACEEE scorecard.
In order to improve the state’s ranking on next year’s list, the Iowa state government will need to reassess recent policy changes and consider updating the state’s outdated energy efficiency standards.