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State energy officials outline growth plan
[December 24, 2008]

State energy officials outline growth plan

DES MOINES, Dec 24, 2008 (The Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
State energy officials Tuesday issued a targeted plan to improve efficiencies for utilities and consumers and to promote smart growth with concepts such as telecommuting hubs to reduce yearly vehicle miles traveled.

The 2008 plan by the state Office on Energy Independence recommends Iowa require all utilities to achieve at least a 1.5 percent reduction in retail energy sales per year over the next five years.

Utilities also should be required to demonstrate they have pursued all available energy-efficiency and demandreduction resources that are cost effective before they are granted regulatory permission to build additional generation capacity, according to the yearly report.

"In effect, efficiency must be the first fuel. This means that greater electric and natural gas resources needs should first be met through all available energy efficiency and demand reduction resources that are cost effective and less expensive than supply," report drafters wrote.

Roya Stanley, director of the energy office, said the 2008 recommendations are designed to address the immediate need to spur the economy and create more jobs in Iowa's burgeoning biofuels and wind industries.

Stanley said the state has received more than 160 preapplications proposing nearly $1 billion in private-sector investment in renewable energy and job creation since her office issued its annual energy plan last year.

Fred Hubbell, chairman of the Iowa Power Fund Board, said his panel has considered more than 25 applications and expects to award contracts totaling $29 million in state investments with $180 million in matching financial commitments by the end of the year.

To promote smart growth and support work force development in energy, one recommendation calls for providing incentives for developers and communities to reduce urban sprawl and vehicle miles traveled by promoting creation of telecommuting hubs around Iowa.

The hubs are described as office spaces -- ideally for jobs primarily by phone or computer -- in communities that allow residents who normally commute out of town for work to instead work locally.

The energy office also recommended "denser growth in cities and advocated compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use" that included neighborhood schools and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices as a way to reduce urban sprawl and promote energy efficiency.

Energy leaders said rebuilding efforts in areas hard hit by this year's natural disasters provides a unique opportunity to incorporate new approaches to growth.

"There is no status quo in energy," Stanley wrote in the report, which recommends best practices related to efficiency and energy production statewide to be considered by state lawmakers, Gov. Chet Culver via executive orders, Iowa Power Fund action, private-sector innovations and investments and national and regional advocacy.

-- Contact the writer: (515) 243-7220 or [email protected]
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