Energy providers like IPL and MidAmerican provide rebates for CFL and LED bulbs to help make up the price difference and encourage consumers to buy them. The utilities also offer rebates on energy efficient furnaces, air conditioners and other appliances.
Similar incentives are offered to industrial customers that replace older equipment, such as electric motors.
IPL’s five-year plan for 2014 through 2018, submitted to the board last November, costs $399 million, a price that would be passed on to the utility’s customers.
It represents more than 814,000 kilowatt-hours of electric savings. That’s about the equivalent of energy used by customers in Dubuque last year, said Justin Foss, a spokesman for Alliant Energy.
IPL’s efficiency plan also proposes to save 12 million therms of natural gas over five years, about the amount used by everyone in the city of Storm Lake, Foss said.
MidAmerican proposes to save 1.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 22 million therms of natural gas over its five-year plan, which is estimated to cost $512 million.
MidAmerican Energy is Iowa’s largest energy provider with nearly 645,000 electric and 555,864 natural gas customers in the state.
Alliant Energy serves about 484,000 electric and 223,000 natural gas customers in Iowa.
Foss said the challenge for utility companies is to devise an energy efficiency plan that balances the cost to customers with the need to ensure energy is used as efficiently as possible.
The environmental companies seek to have IPL pay more to encourage customers to buy high efficiency appliances and lighting and focus more rebate money on LED bulbs, which offer the largest savings. They also want increased use of a weatherization program and a behavior modification program that provides consumers with detailed reports of energy use and suggests ways to reduce it. And the groups want IPL to continue a pilot project started in 2011 that encourages customers to install solar power or small wind turbines.