Iowa’s largest utilities have dramatically scaled back efforts to help customers conserve energy since a 2018 law gutted the state’s efficiency requirements. Dire predictions about the legislation’s impact have largely come true, with combined energy savings of the state’s two largest utilities falling more than 50% since lawmakers voted to limit spending on efficiency programs.
State Sen. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat who voted against the legislation, acknowledged that utilities faced other hurdles last year, such as the pandemic and a freak wind storm that caused widespread damage across the state. Still, he doesn’t see them as major factors for the decline in energy conservation.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the primary problem here was a change in the law,” Hogg said.
In particular, the spending caps are “the clearest rationale for why this happened,” said Nick Dreher, policy director for the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. The bill prohibited state regulators from requiring utilities to spend more than 2% of expected electric revenue or 1.5% of expected natural gas revenue on efficiency programs.
“There are measures that are more expensive to run but produce greater savings,” Dreher said. “You’re left with measures that are less expensive but don’t produce the deeper energy savings.”
Calling energy efficiency “the quickest, cheapest and cleanest way to deal with greenhouse gases,” Hogg said he believes his colleagues in the legislature need to reevaluate the changes they made in 2018.