The Obama administration's ambitious plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants will likely lead to higher electric bills in Iowa, but drastic changes may not be needed because the state's utilities have invested heavily in wind power.
Under the proposed rules announced Monday, Iowa would have to reduce its carbon emissions by 16 percent by 2030. That's less than the goal for a 30 percent reduction nationwide.
Officials at Iowa utilities and state agencies said they'll have to review the details of the proposed regulations before they know exactly how the state will be affected.
Regi Goodale, director of regulatory affairs for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, said one thing is clear: Electricity will get more expensive because of this ambitious target for reducing carbon emissions.
"We believe these rules will likely increase electric bills. It's just a question of how much," Goodale said.
But Iowa may be in a fairly good position to comply with the regulations because of previous efforts, said Mark Douglas, president of the Iowa Utility Association, which represents investor-owned utilities.
Iowa already gets one-quarter of its electricity from wind energy, and the state's largest utility, MidAmerican Energy, is building hundreds more wind turbines that should be able to supply another 1,050 megawatts of power by the end of 2015.
MidAmerican also plans to convert coal plants at Council Bluffs and Sioux City to natural gas, which will reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
But Iowa did still get 62 percent of its electricity from coal in 2012, so it may still require significant work to meet the new federal goal. Anne Kimber, director of energy services for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, said the diverse mix of power sources in the state should help.
"Iowa is one of the states with a lot of coal generation, but we also have a huge amount of wind generation," Kimber said. The state also has a nuclear power plant, and some hydrological power.
One of the other big utilities, Alliant Energy, is building a 600-megawatt natural gas power plant in Marshalltown.
Alliant's Scott Reigstad said he expects the state will be able to meet the federal goal by continuing what utilities have been doing to improve the efficiency of power plants, retire older plants and invest in new plants where needed.
"We feel like we've got a good starting point on complying," Reigstad said.