HIAWATHA — A statewide coalition of more than 30 organizations and businesses on Tuesday rolled out a plan to create 20,000 jobs as well as save consumers $1 billion annually by 2020 through investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and transportation initiatives.
Details of Iowa Renewable Energy Jobs 2020 were outlined at the Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha by Kimberly Dickey of Cedar Rapids, president of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association board of directors.
“IREJ2020 emphasizes the role of energy and transportation solutions in rebuilding Iowa’s workforce and economy,” Dickey said. “Iowans paid $13.8 billion last year in energy and transportation costs, over twice what was paid a decade ago.
“With the price of gasoline on the rise, transportation costs make up the lion’s share of energy expenditures. Reaching a 20 percent improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency by 2020 would save Iowans $1.6 billion per year in the cost of gasoline.”
Iowa receives 20 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources like wind turbines and solar panels. The IREJ2020 coalition wants utilities to boost the total to 40 percent from all renewable energy sources by 2020.
“Iowa needs to expand energy efficiency programs for all utilities and diversify its renewable electricity sources,” Dickey said. “Iowans need to receive a fair price for generating renewable electricity for the grid. We need to dramatically reduce the public health and environmental costs of fossil fuels.
“We also need to say ‘no’ to special ratepayer financing for new nuclear power plants.”
In the area of transportation, the IREJ2020 coalition is calling for providing incentives for the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles. It also wants to see the state offer incentives for electric vehicles, charging stations and grid improvements.
“Iowa also needs to support the development and expansion of passenger rail,” Dickey said. “The state also needs to promote land use and urban management decisions that reduce travel costs.”
The IREJ2020 plan contends that nearly 5,000 new jobs would be created over a five-year period to install 300 megawatts of solar energy. The same plan maintains building a set of proposed transmission lines to allow for additional wind energy development would create between 6,100 and 16,000 jobs.
“The first segment of passenger rail from Iowa City to the Quad Cities would generate 2,350 jobs in the first four years of design
and construction,” Dickey said.
Prairiewoods gets 45 percent of its energy from a solar array. With a total of $1,000 of financial assistance from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and Rockwell Collins, as well as in-kind contributions from other entities, Prairiewoods is planning a root zone heating system that will extend the growing season for its organic garden.
Emy Sautter, Prairiewoods ecospirituality coordinator, said excess heat from a building housing the Iowa Renewable Energy Association training center and storage for Prairiewoods will circulate through a closed-loop system under a section of the garden. That area will be covered with a hoop house to retain the heat and allow for planting earlier in the spring and for harvesting of produce later in the fall.
Sautter said the garden supplies food served at Prairiewoods.
R.J. Jordan, owner of RJ Construction in Marion, who built the building housing the training center, said the root zone heating system potentially would allow produce to be grown throughout the year.