Transmission Updates Support Midwestern Collaboration

Later this summer the Environmental Protection Agency will release final details for the Clean Power Plan – a new rule that will reduce energy sector carbon emissions 30% by 2030. The CPP is innovative. It allows each state to create an individualized plan to meet emissions targets. Despite the occasional protest, most Midwestern states already are hard at work to determine how best to meet their reduction goals.

Although some politicians and utilities have claimed the CPP will raise rates and cause reliability issues, the plan is designed with enough flexibility to allow states to write plans that work for their unique needs and resource base. States that find creative ways to support renewables and energy efficiency measures likely will benefit the most from the plan.

Iowa, for example, is poised to breeze past our emissions reduction target by continuing to expand our successful wind industry. A new study shows that even conservative growth in Iowa wind – 500 MW per year – would allow our state to exceed our emissions goal.

Neighboring states are looking to energy leaders like Iowa to help them comply with the Plan. The Midwest Power Sector Collaborative – a group of Midwestern utilities, environmental groups, and regulators – seeks to create a Midwest-wide carbon trading platform that will allow states like Wisconsin to buy Iowa wind energy. Such a rule would create a win-win situation for member states. Jobs and investment in Iowa would advance, while lowering energy rates in states where cheap wind energy resources are less available.

While a regional trading platform would create new opportunities for states to comply with the Clean Power Plan, the Midwest will need to update our infrastructure to realize this future. Inadequate transmission infrastructure represents the largest bottleneck for Iowa wind. However, several proposed transmission lines in the region are poised to free trapped energy resources.

Planned Midwest transmission projects will not only unlock existing Iowa wind power, they will allow states to move energy across borders and improve grid reliability. Transmission updates are a vital component of a possible carbon trading platform.

While transmission lines will allow increased flexibility for states working to comply with the Clean Power Plan, they must be developed in a way that is transparent and responsible to affected communities. The Center for Rural Affairs works to ensure that transmission developers communicate with rural communities to create fair siting and compensation procedures. For more information, please visit our transmission database.

Author Stephanie Enloe lives in Iowa and is housed in the Center's Dyersville office.