DES MOINES — Environmental groups are challenging the energy conservation plans of Iowa’s largest gas and electricity providers, saying Interstate Power and Light and MidAmerican Energy are not doing as much as they could to help consumers use less electricity.
Iowa law requires state-regulated gas and electricity utility companies to file energy efficiency plans every five years.
The law also allows other organizations to challenge the plans and seek changes.
IPL was first to submit its plan and go through the hearing process before the Iowa Utilities Board.
MidAmerican’s plan is next. The utilities board staggers the procedures because of the large volumes of paperwork, testimony, and hearings required.
The plan submitted by IPL, a division of Alliant Energy, has been challenged by the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Iowa Environmental Council, and the Iowa Policy Project.
The groups contend that before IPL is granted permission to build a proposed $750 million power plant in Marshalltown, it should reduce electricity demand as much as possible through efficiency programs.
“The main point we’re making is before you build a new power plant you should do all the cost-effective energy conservation you can.”
That should be the first priority,” said Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “If you’re contemplating a new power plant, that’s not the time to be cautious with energy efficiency efforts. It’s the time to be most aggressive.”
In homes a significant reduction in demand can be accomplished simply by encouraging the use of lower-energy-consuming light bulbs, including compact fluorescent lights or newer light emitting diode, or LED, bulbs instead of the traditional globe-shaped incandescent ones. Those bulbs use significantly less electricity and can last much longer, but they cost more, with CFLs priced at $1 to $10 and LEDs at $18 to $50.