An eastern Iowa think tank is urging Iowa lawmakers to force the state’s Rural Electric Cooperatives and municipal utilities to enact more energy efficiency programs. Under current law, investor-owned utilities like MidAmerican and Alliant are required to offer monetary incentives to customers who take measures to reduce their use of power.

Teresa Galluzzo, a researcher with the Iowa Policy Project, says those programs are working pretty well. "Investor-owned utilities serve 75 percent of our customers in the state. The other customers are served by municipal electric utilities and Rural Electric Cooperatives and they do have to offer energy efficiency programs to their customers, but they are not reviewed in any way and so these programs are often not comprehensive," Galluzzo says. "So a lot of Iowans are often missing out on some of the most cost-effective energy efficiency investments that they could make with a little help from their utilities."

Galluzzo has found Iowans do spend a lot on energy efficient appliances and energy-saving modifications to homes and businesses. Iowa ranks ninth in per capita spending on devices or building improvements that conserve energy. "We also have saved a considerable amount of electricity. Our investor-owned utility programs have saved 0.8 percent of retail energy in 2006, the municipal (utilities) saved 0.15 percent and RECs (saved) 0.6 percent," Galluzzo says. "That might not sound like a lot, but in comparison to what some other states are doing, we’re going all right."

Galluzzo points north, however, to Minnesota where that state’s legislature has set the goal of reducing energy use in Minnesota by one-and-a-half percent electric savings annually. "We don’t want them to pass us by. We think Iowa could be the national leader in energy efficiency," Galluzzo says. "We think there’s a lot of opportunity here, starting from a good foundation and keep moving forward."

Galluzzo’s report found about half of the energy efficiency programs in force in Iowa today deal with reducing demand during peak energy usage rather than attacking energy use at all times. There are 183 different utilities in Iowa that provide electricity to Iowans.