Iowa has built a strong renewable energy industry, thanks to visionary leaders such as Sen. Chuck Grassley, and has become a leader in wind generation. Not only does wind energy provide 37 percent of Iowa’s electricity generation, it supports about 9,000 jobs. But this economic engine is at risk.
In Congress’ spotlight is a little-known independent federal agency whose decisions and actions have major impacts on Iowa’s fast-growing clean energy economy: the U.S. Federal Electricity Regulatory Commission (FERC).
FERC oversees regional transmission planning that would provide Iowa wind developers access to out-of-state markets. This access is important because wind energy has become a cash crop for farmers with consistent revenue, that brings jobs and investment to rural Iowa.
Without wind generated electricity, Iowa is dependent on outside sources of power; all the natural gas, coal and oil consumed comes from outside of our state. Just like shipping corn, beans, pork and beef provides income and jobs, wind energy could be exported.
I know firsthand how much a wind farm in rural Iowa can positively affect property taxes. In this era of tight budgets, shrinking revenues and ever-increasing demands on infrastructure, significant property tax revenues provided by wind can help a county hold the line on property taxes while maintaining a revenue stream to improve local infrastructure.
FERC commissioners, in a nutshell, keep the lights on. The agency is required to be independent and free from politicization, because of its key role in shaping how the country is powered. An unbiased agency makes decisions based on facts and evidence, not political whim. FERC is made up of five commissioners who protect consumers from unreasonably high electricity prices, make sure markets are fair and competitive, and maintain electricity reliability.
FERC independence is threatened by the nomination of Bernard McNamee.
McNamee has no electric utility or regulatory experience. Yet, he is nominated to lead the top energy regulatory agency in the country — an agency that holds Iowa’s energy future in its hands.
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Even worse than his lack of experience, McNamee is an avowed opponent of wind and renewable energy. An anti-wind commissioner would be a disaster for Iowa consumers and our wind industry. With McNamee’s clear favoritism of fossil fuels, thousands of Iowa jobs are on the line.
McNamee’s appointment also would be a threat to good governance and is a conflict of interest.
What can Iowans do? Join me in asking Sens. Grassley and Joni Ernst to speak up. Congress has forced McNamee through the process without providing due diligence to his clear conflicts of interest and inappropriate political ties.
McNamee is no friend to Iowa wind. Grassley and Ernst must preserve FERC’s independent role for the country’s energy future by voting no on McNamee.
l Kirk Kraft is executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association and a wind project developer.