Common Good Iowa

Post-nuclear, Iowa must commit to remaining clean energy options

Posted on 01/07/2021 at 12:00 AM by David Osterberg

The closing of the Duane Arnold Energy Center (DAEC) near Palo leaves Iowa with no operating nuclear power plants. This puts a priority on public policy choices that direct us to other clean energy sources that are renewable and, like nuclear power, support good jobs in our state.

For years nearly 10 percent of electricity produced in Iowa came from DAEC, which could have continued to produce carbon-free electricity for at least five more years. But cost competition with wind and natural gas led NextEra to close it in October, and the August derecho forced an earlier closure as storm's 140 mph winds knocked out the cooling system.

Iowa already is a leader on clean power, with more than 40 percent of our state’s electricity coming from wind. But most of the rest comes from natural gas and coal, which produces local air pollution, contributes to warming the planet. Furthermore, the impacts of dirty industry are often felt most directly in nearby neighborhoods disproportionately populated by people at low incomes and people of color, who are often at a disadvantage in the political arena.  

Keeping DAEC going for another five years would have improved our environment. With smart planning, we could have gradually replaced the reactor’s capacity with new electricity generated from solar and wind over five years.

That opportunity is behind us, but smart planning is always an option — and it does not rest with dirty power. Iowa can continue to be a leader on clean power if it moves to address both its power needs and economic needs with a climate-friendly solution.

In the coming months, as the Legislature, governor and other policy makers in the state have an opportunity to point us in that direction, to affirm our established leadership in wind power and strengthen our commitment to solar power.

David Osterberg, a former state legislator from Mount Vernon, is a senior researcher at Common Good Iowa. His 10-page paper that is the basis for these comments can be found here.  A guest opinion in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on this topic can be found here.

Tagged As: Energy, Equity, Utilities

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