MidAmerican plans new subscription service with 100% renewable energy

By: - December 23, 2020 1:38 pm
Iowa is one of the nation's top producers of wind energy. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Wind power and other renewables should replace all power from coal plants, the Iowa Environmental Council says. Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

MidAmerican Energy plans to buy a Webster County solar energy development as part of a proposed subscription service that will allow companies such as Facebook to buy power generated entirely with renewable sources. 

MidAmerican will purchase a utility-scale solar development under development by owned by San Diego-based EDF Renewables North America. Terms were not disclosed. The solar arrays will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 17,600 Iowa homes and will come online in stages over the next two years.

Investor-owned MidAmerican announced earlier that its goal is to meet the equivalent of customers’ full demand with wind, solar and other renewables. This year, the company expects to hit 80%. However, MidAmerican still operates coal and gas plants to ensure reliability, company officials have said.  

MidAmerican has filed documents with the Iowa Utilities Board asking permission for a rate structure that would set a “slight premium” for the renewable energy with the rate for the qualified industrial customers guaranteed for 20 years, the Des Moines-based company said. 

Other customers would not pay for the related wind and solar projects, but would benefit from lower rates because of the move to additional renewable energy, said Kathryn Kunert, MidAmerican’s vice president of economic connections and integration.

Kunert said the new program caters to corporations whose customers demand that they use renewable energy. MidAmerican each year asks the utilities board to certify how much of the utility’s power comes from renewable energy, a statistic commercial customers use in their own documents. 

Some companies, including Facebook and Google, have chosen development sites in part because of relatively cheap, renewable energy. 

“Our renewable energy vision, coupled with some of the lowest electric rates in the nation, prompted large commercial customers and businesses to open or expand here in Iowa,” Kunert said in a statement. “While our renewable energy generation is already significant for all Iowa customers, the (subscription program) allows customers to pay a separate set rate, while adding new diverse renewable energy to the grid and helps participating companies reach their sustainability goals.”

Facebook plans to subscribe to the new program, MidAmerican reported.

“We are happy to have worked with MidAmerican to help create the Renewable Subscription Program and to enable 60 new megawatts of renewable energy to support our data center in Altoona,” Laura Walsh, energy manager for Facebook, said in a statement. “For companies like Facebook who care about bringing new renewable energy resources to the grid, this green tariff will provide another option for customers while further diversifying the Iowa renewable energy mix as the company moves toward 100% renewable energy.”

MidAmerican plans to sell both renewable energy and credits to subscribers. 

The utility plans to build several solar developments around the state as part of the new initiative. 

The company will wrap up work by the end of this year on its $922 million Wind XII project, which was announced in 2018. The utility now has more than 3,300 turbines at 36 sites, with a generating capacity exceeding 7,100 megawatts.

Iowa is one of the nation’s top producers of wind energy.

Alliant Energy, Iowa’s other large investor-owned utility, also is developing more solar power.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.