WILTON—Dean Crist, vice president of regulatory affairs for MidAmerican Energy Company told a group estimated by the media at between 300-450 people last night, “we’re going to have to burn less coal because of environmental regulations, we need to replace that with something.” The company spokesperson said the electric utility has no plans to build any type of power plant in Iowa, including a much discussed nuclear power plant. No surprise here.
Over the coming decades, public utilities must replace a number of aging power plants, including the fleet of 104 nuclear reactors in the United States. Utility executives view coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants as central to their overall plans, because of their scale and ability to turn them off and on to match demand. MidAmerican Energy and others have a growing generating capacity in renewable energy, especially wind and solar power, but what has been going on in Iowa for the last three years has been an effort by the company to persuade regulators and the Iowa Legislature that nuclear power is an option.
Companies like MidAmerican Energy are playing a long game, and meetings like the one last night seem to be a minor blip on their radar screen. While growth in demand for electricity slows, there are legitimate issues they must resolve regarding generating capacity during the next 50 years. Having been blocked in their legislative agenda, other approaches will be taken. It is up to members of the public to maintain vigilance as their plans unfold.