MidAmerican, Alliant and Black Hills Energy are warning that this winter our natural gas heating bills could be as much as 49% higher than last year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that residential gas prices will be 27% higher than last winter on average. Natural gas prices historically fluctuate much more than electricity prices.
When MidAmerican, Alliant and Black Hills pay higher prices for natural gas, they pass that cost directly on to the customer. The result will be higher bills this winter if you heat with natural gas (or propane), hitting middle class customers, especially seniors on a fixed income.
You’ve likely seen the countless articles and news coverage on the increase in natural gas prices. Armchair analysts or media outlets may blame inflation or the current administration’s poor policies. Some economists may even weave in stories of supply and demand, market manipulation, and import/export issues.
But in reality, these explanations are just noise. No utility customer should face a 30-50% increase in their monthly heating bills with little to no warning all because a utility doesn’t move away from its dependence on fossil fuels.
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A solution already exists: 100% carbon free renewable energy. The sun provides all the energy the world needs 4,000 times over. Iowa already gets 60% of our energy from wind, and it could quickly be 100% with further investment that benefits Iowa’s landowners, workers, local economies, and utility customers — you and me.
Iowa farmers already use the energy from the sun to make our state the largest producer of corn and soybeans. They now see they can harvest the same energy with wind farms and solar farms to ensure their continued success, and improve the environment for everyone. As stewards of the land, Iowa farmers are recognizing the dual role they will play in addressing climate change through agricultural practices and as an essential part of our 100% carbon free energy future.
Iowa is a renewable energy leader with 12,000 Mw of wind providing 60% of the generation consumed in Iowa in 2020. In order to address climate change, Iowa needs to electrify everything from transportation to buildings and use only carbon free energy. To achieve the end game of 100% carbon free energy, Iowa will need upwards of 60,000 Mw of wind and 46,000 Mw of solar.
Building electrification will involve eliminating natural gas for heating and switching to electric sources such as air source heat pumps. In fact, Iowa utility customers who currently use electricity for their heat will not be subjected to the utility bill shock facing Iowans using natural gas this winter. For those fortunate enough to have an air source heat pump, their bills will be cheaper than their neighbor with a natural gas furnace.
Iowa customers will benefit significantly once we focus on achieving 100% carbon free energy and electrification. Let’s collectively filter out the noise about natural gas price increases, keep an eye on our neighbors to ensure they’re safe and warm this winter, and focus on the end game: carbon free energy for Iowa.
Steve Guyer is the Energy and Climate Policy Specialist for the Iowa Environmental Council. Jack and Carole Yates are Cedar Valley environmental justice advocates and members of the Iowa Environmental Council and Black Hawk County NAACP.