Apr 27, 2022 - News

Des Moines' latest push for 100% renewable energy

Illustration for column on energy risks
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Des Moines is thinking about its commitment to carbon-free electricity as it gets ready to renegotiate its agreement with MidAmerican Energy.

What's happening: The city's current franchise agreement with MidAmerican ends in June. Environmental groups, like the Iowa Environmental Council, say it's a chance to leverage cleaner energy options.

  • City Councilmember Josh Mandelbaum tells Axios one of the city's objectives is to use new contracts to help reach its 100% renewable energy goal.

Why it matters: It could be a big step in the push for cleaner energy in the area.

  • Yes, but: There is debate about whether Des Moines' renewable goal could result in utility cost savings or increases.

Catch up fast: Franchise agreements give utilities permission to use the public rights-of-way to service customers in a city's jurisdiction.

  • MidAmerican and its predecessor have had franchise agreements with Des Moines since 1960. The contract currently includes a 5% franchise fee for gas and electric that's passed on to customers.
  • City Council set its goal last year to divorce itself from fossil fuel electricity by 2035.

Between the lines: Mike Fehr, MidAmerican's vice president of resource development, warned the council in 2020 that Des Moines ratepayers could face hundreds of dollars more in monthly costs, should the city implement the renewable goal.

What they're saying: MidAmerican spokesperson Geoff Greenwood told Axios that franchise agreements are, by law, narrow in scope and wouldn't specifically include the city's renewable goal.

  • But Greenwood noted that the utility also has renewable energy goals and will partner with the city.

What's next: The City Council will hold a public hearing to consider gas and electric franchise agreements on May 9.

  • The electric franchise would end in 2035, the year Des Moines has set to reach its renewable goal.
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