A new study commissioned by the Iowa Environmental Council finds Iowa communities that are home to coal-fired power plants should be proactive about planning for those facilities to close.

Iowa is home to nine utility-owned coal plants. The study says while the economic impact of the facilities can be significant, local communities can manage the loss. Eric Christianson is the study’s main author. “These can be scary conversations but it’s important not to shy away from them,” Christianson says. “Communities that are proactive and plan ahead are going to be better positioned to face whatever the future brings. The goal of this study is to reduce some of that uncertainty, not in what the future of the plants will be, but understanding the economic landscape where they’re located.”

The share of Iowa’s energy that’s generated by coal has fallen significantly in recent years, as the cost of renewables has gone down and demand has gone up. The state’s utility-owned coal plants employ about 600 people. According to the study, the facilities support less than one percent of the total jobs in the counties where they’re located.

The IEC’s Kerri Johannsen says having the facts on the economic impact can help communities prepare for plant closures.
Johannsen says, “How many employees there are, how those employees’ salaries and the spending and the plants in the communities impact other jobs in the area and the region, so that we can all level-set and start from a place where we’re working from the same set of information.”

The study authors reason that communities which proactively plan for a closure will be better able to attract new economic development and fill in budgetary gaps.

(By Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)