The City of Decorah’s Partnership with CEDI Receives a Major Federal Grant

On October 12, 2023, the Department of Energy announced that the City of Decorah, in partnership with the Clean Energy Districts of Iowa, has been awarded $1.1 million in funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Competitive Program. 

The EECBG Program is designed to assist states, local governments, and Tribes in implementing strategies to reduce energy use, to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and to improve energy efficiency.  

There are three facets to the EECBG program.  Cities and counties with populations over 50,000 receive automatic allocations via a Formula Grant program.  Cities and counties with populations under 50,000 can apply for EECBG funding through their State Energy Office.  In addition, there is a national Competitive Program for EECBG funding.

The City of Decorah was one of only twelve communities around the nation that were chosen to receive funding from this national funding opportunity.


As the Prime Applicant, the City of Decorah will work in close partnership with the Clean Energy Districts of Iowa (CEDI), which will manage the project and provide technical assistance to help local governments and school districts benefit from the clean energy transition and to reduce energy burdens in low-income households in several counties in Northeast Iowa and Southwest Wisconsin. 

The project area features eight rural counties with clean energy districts where neither the county nor the incorporated cities are eligible for EECBG formula grants. The list includes Vernon County in Wisconsin, which includes Ho-Chunk Nation land, and seven counties in Iowa: Allamakee, Winneshiek, Howard, Clayton, Delaware, Jackson, and Tama County, which includes land owned by the Meskwaki Tribe.  The relevant counties are highlighted in green on the map below:

EECBG funding will be used to hire two energy planners and an engineer to provide vital technical assistance to municipalities, school districts, and low-income households throughout the project area so that they can make cost-effective investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

In August 2023, CEDI surveyed 228 mayors, city clerks, city managers, school district superintendents, and other key leaders in the eight-county project area.  The responses revealed that 95% are interested in receiving assistance via the EECBG funding.

Due to the recent passage of the Building and Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), there is currently an unprecedented amount of funding available at the federal and state levels for investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Unfortunately, few people know how to access these funds and how best to utilize them.  

EECBG funding will be used to identify cost-effective investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy and to help project participants identify and utilize various financial resources to make these investments. These resources include:

  • Federal tax credits, including the use of the elective payment option for non-profits, as well as relevant bonus “adders” for solar projects in low-income, tribal, and/or energy communities.
  • Third-party power purchase agreements, which tap the federal tax credits but also utilize other tax benefits available to for-profit entities such as accelerated depreciation.  Municipal governments and other non-taxable entities that sign these agreements no longer have to address the financing obstacle and typically enjoy substantial energy cost savings. These agreements are legal in Iowa but not yet in Wisconsin. Several municipal governments, school districts, and other non-taxable entities have already utilized this option–mostly in and near Winneshiek County (IA). 
  • Rebates provided by the Home Energy Performance-Based, Whole-House Rebates (HOMES) program and the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate (HEEHR) program administered by the State Energy Offices in Iowa and Wisconsin.
  • USDA programs such as the Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audit & Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants as well as the Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants.
  • Services and equipment incentives provided by the energy efficiency programs offered by area utilities.
  • Additional financial resources that may be available through regional housing trust funds and community foundations.

The City of Decorah and CEDI are currently in a 60-day grant award negotiation period with the EECBG Program since the original grant proposed using $1.56 million in EECBG funding over three years but the program could only provide $1.1 million.  As a result, it is likely that the funding will be spread over 28 months rather than 36 months.  We expect the program to commence in January 2024.

CEDI will soon provide more information about how communities in Iowa can apply for EECBG funding from Iowa’s State Energy Office.

This is the second major award to the City of Decorah by the EECBG program.  In 2010, the program provided the city with $880,000–over half of which was used by the Winneshiek Energy District to provide energy planning services to the residents of Winneshiek County and to develop the replicability of the energy district model.  

Today there are twelve legally incorporated energy districts located in Allamakee, Cerro Gordo, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Howard, Jackson, Johnson, Linn, Muscatine, Polk, and Winneshiek County.  Additional counties are in the planning stages.  

Contact CEDI’s Policy Analyst, Jim Martin-Schramm, for more information.

Decorah Family Cuts the Gas Line and Goes All Electric

Guest Story by Laura Peterson

Earlier this month our energy utility came to shut off our natural gas connection. Usually, having your gas service cut off means either you’re moving to a new house or you’re way behind on your bills. But in our case, it’s because we’ve eliminated all gas appliances in our home. Over the last few years, we’ve undergone a transition to an all-electric household. Here is how it worked in our home, in the hopes that you might find something useful here if you’re considering electrification in your own.

We live in a 1950’s ranch home of about 1350 square feet, with additional area in our partially finished basement. The first steps we took after moving in were to add attic insulation and to do basic air sealing around doors, windows, and the basement rim joist. In conjunction with air sealing, we also installed an air exchanger to manage moisture in the house. 

A few years later, we were able to install solar panels on our roof. We followed the advice of our electrician to upgrade our electrical service to a 200 amp panel at the same time, in anticipation of increasing our electric load for heating and eventually electric vehicles. 

Next we looked at household heating. Our house was previously heated by a gas furnace with forced hot air. We also had a central air conditioning unit. Both our furnace and air conditioner dated to the early 1990’s, and since heat pumps can both heat and cool, one advantage of a heat pump was that we could replace our furnace and air conditioner with a single appliance. We also knew we wanted to stop burning fossil fuels in our home. This also led us to favor an all-electric heat pump over another gas furnace or a dual natural gas-heat pump system.

We consulted with the Energy District to get estimates of our household heating demand that would help us know how to select and size our system. In late 2021 we had our gas furnace and air conditioner removed, and installed a ducted, 3 ton heat pump system in their place. The outdoor unit looks similar to an air conditioner, and the indoor air handler, installed in our basement, fit directly into existing duct work.

After this, the only remaining gas appliance in our house was our water heater. This meant that the vast majority of our monthly gas bill was the connection fee, so it made a lot of sense for us to take the final step to fully electrify our household. The ability to take advantage of a federal tax credit (30% of the project) through the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as a $300 utility rebate, made the cost of a new heat pump water heater comparable to a gas-fired water heater. So, this fall we removed our gas-fired water heater and replaced it with a heat pump water heater, eliminating our natural gas usage entirely. 


Does the heat pump provide enough heat on its own in cold weather?

Yes. Our heat pump is rated to -13°F. Though it runs less efficiently at such cold temperatures, it can still meet our heating demand. It also has a built-in back-up system (electric resistance heating coils) for even colder temperatures. We do burn wood in a small woodstove for supplemental heat, but we know from the experience of being out of town during a run of very cold days last winter that the heat pump can do the job on its own even if we’re not at home to feed the woodstove.

What is the living experience like?

For the most part, our electric appliances are as invisible to us on a daily basis as their gas counterparts were before. Hearing the heat pump outside our kitchen window in the winter is similar to hearing an outdoor A/C unit in the summer, and neither the air source heat pump or the heat pump hot water heater are noticeably louder than our other appliances. The heat pump is actually considerably quieter than our old A/C unit except in very cold temperatures.

One change we’ve made during the winter is to use a smaller thermostat setback at night. We do this keep the heating demand steady rather than demanding the most heat during the coldest part of the day, since unlike a gas furnace, the efficiency of the heat pump changes as the outdoor temperature changes.

We do notice a drop in temperature in our basement laundry room, where our heat pump water heater is installed, since the heat pump is essentially transferring heat from the surrounding air to create the hot water. The temperature drop is not extreme, however, and in the summer months, the same effect will provide additional cooling.

How did our utility bills change?

Determining how electrification has changed our utility bills is complicated by the fact that we also installed solar panels shortly before we had the heat pump installed. But we have gotten some sense of the difference by looking at our electric usage directly. 

With the installation of the heat pump, our annual electric usage went up by around 20%, or the equivalent of around $200/year. A good portion of our increased electricity use during the winter was offset by much lower electricity use during the summer, since the new heat pump is much more efficient than the old air-conditioning unit it replaced (with the new system, our summertime electric usage was reduced by close to 50%). 

The Energy Guide estimate for our heat pump hot water heater is that our hot water will cost roughly $120/year. This is far lower than what we had been paying (around $400/year) for hot water and our gas connection. 

All told, if we didn’t have solar panels, it looks like our electric bills after full electrification would be similar to and perhaps slightly lower than before. Even though electricity tends to be more expensive than gas, the savings we get from disconnecting our gas line entirely, and from the high efficiency of heat pump appliances, seem to compensate for our greater electricity use.

Are the carbon dioxide emissions from our increased electricity use lower than our previous CO2 emissions from natural gas burning?

Yes. Even though there are carbon dioxide emissions associated with the coal and natural gas that are burned to produce a portion of the electricity we use, the switch from gas to heat pumps in isolation would bring our CO2 emissions down by about 30% if we were purchasing all of our electricity. With the combination of electrification and rooftop solar, we’ve reduced our household carbon footprint by a total of about 80%. 

The exciting part is that now that we have all-electric infrastructure in our household, our carbon footprint will continue to decrease as the electric grid itself greens. According to the website of Alliant Energy, our electric provider, the company currently ‘aspires’ to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. But with an increasing number of utilities across the country setting 2030 as a target date for net-zero systems, perhaps the day is not too far off when our all-electric house will also be carbon neutral.

Moving the Needle: How One Rural Congregation Electrified its Building and Secured its Future

Guest Story by Jim and Liz Fritz, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Decorah, Iowa

Is it possible for a small Midwestern Lutheran congregation to go from eight natural gas furnaces to eight heat pumps and create all needed energy, via solar, needed to run them in only 4 years? It is possible, and it’s happening right now!

The Background

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of Decorah was founded in 1958 on land that was formally a sheep pasture. Plans were drawn for the current Fellowship Hall and the Education Wing. These structures were built in late 1958-early 1959, and the present Fellowship Hall was used as the Sanctuary. In 1988, Good Shepherd added a significant addition west of the existing buildings, including a large Sanctuary, offices, meeting spaces, and bathrooms.

The original building was built in 1958 and heated with fuel oil. For oil storage, a 2,000-gallon tank was buried in the yard behind the building. When natural gas became available, the switch was made with new gas furnaces (sometime in the late 1960s). These furnaces included 3-4 ton natural gas downdraft forced air furnaces. The furnaces were ducted into clay flues that lay in the soil (uninsulated!) below the slab of the entire building. By 2018 these furnaces were dead/dying, and the fuel bills were significant.

Good Shepherd, after completion of 1988 addition

In 2018 the Good Shepherd Church congregation took on an extensive remodeling project to update the 1958 HVAC system and renovate the 1958 Education Wing. The congregation decided to gut and reconfigure the Education Wing and undertake a geothermal/heat pump retrofit of the entire 1958 facility.

Jim Fritz was extensively involved in the 2019 remodeling project and, following advice from Joel Zook from Winneshiek Energy District, convinced the congregation that we should invest in a ground-source LG heat pump system using VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) delivery.

In 2019 four LG ground source heat pumps were installed in the original 1958 facilities. The original sheep pasture behind the building has 17 horizontal bore lines (approximately 10′ below grade). These geo lines enter the building and connect to four new LG geothermal heat pumps. These LG units use VRF piping (Variable Refrigerant Flow) to feed individual units in rooms, hallways, etc.

Left, ground-source heat pumps, Right, schematic of 17 horizontal ground loops

The Good Shepherd Church has some unique characteristics. It has no basement and no attic. The entire facility is on one level. Traditional forced ductwork was not an option. The size of the ductwork needed was not possible in this situation. These VRF lines (think exactly like your air conditioner lines) run through small wall chases in ceiling cavities and created architectural chases that are not restrictive like traditional forced air delivery needs.

There are other advantages to the VRF delivery system. The system is uber-efficient (more later) and easy to install lines in existing facilities. But, another advantage is individual room zoning. One room can have air conditioning while another has heat, for example, which helps increase the efficiency of the overall facility.

The Ideas

As Jim dug deeper into the facilities at Good Shepherd Church, he realized that the roof-mounted HVAC units on the 1988 Sanctuary addition were also getting past their prime efficiency. Three of the four were original to the building, and yearly service repair costs were not inconsequential. Additionally, they were an eyesore on the roof at the front of the building.  He knew it was only a matter of time before there would be failures.

During this realization, Jim started dreaming about better utilization of an outdoor space directly south of the existing Education Wing and Fellowship Hall. That area was grass and had several large Maple trees. There was another existing and significant problem, as this was the space were the water was being dumped from the facilities’ flat roofs. This eventually killed the trees and was a concern for the building foundation.  The questions included, how can that space replace our furnaces? He had ideas, but the question was: How to implement them?

The Solution

The solution for this project came from many conversations. Jim and Liz Fritz worked with local mentors Larry Grimstad, Andy Johnson, Joel Zook, Jim Martin-Schramm, Amy Bouska, and others to brainstorm and dream about the possibilities for this project. They worked to create and develop a business plan forming an LLC called Mission Green LLC (a mission with a company). Would a carbon-neutral project fit in with their ideas? Can you grow a business using a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)? Could this idea/business model allow Good Shepherd to lower energy bills and their carbon footprint? Could this include some of the ideas for the outdoor space?

The result of these conversations and questions was a proposal from Mission Green to enable a Carbon Neutral Project for Good Shepherd. Mission Green would create a business relationship with the Good Shepherd congregation, whereas we would:

  1. Sell them the electricity at lower fixed costs through a PPA.
  2. Eliminate their use of carbon-based fuels by installing and leasing heat pumps, while removing the eyesores on the roof.
  3. Provide an opportunity to fix the water problems of the outdoor space (French drain).
  4. Update/upgrade all service entrances to the entire facility.
  5. Provide solar panels for rooftop installation (21 kW, 52 bi-facial).
  6. Provide a 37’x37′ solar canopy (27 kW, 50 bi-facial panels) with a waterproof racking system on a Douglas Fir post and beam pergola.
  7. Install a permeable paver courtyard directly over the French drain, with sound and light amenities.

These contracts dictated Mission Green would receive monthly payments from the PPA for kWh generation and heat pump lease payments from Good Shepherd for six years. Mission Green will monitor the output/usage of the Good Shepherd facilities. At the end of the PPA, the congregation will buy out the PPA solar portion of the project at fair market value. After the buyout, Good Shepherd will own all the infrastructure to heat/cool/illuminate the entire facility, all on-site.

The Mission Green proposal was approved at a Congregational Meeting on June 5, 2022, when a vote was taken. The proposal was approved by 99-4.

Mission Green Website,

Moving Forward

Supply chain issues completely stalled the project into late 2022. Finally, the new service entrance and the rooftop solar (21 kW, 52 panels), on the white EPDM roof of the Education Wing, installed in late October 2022.

21kW Rooftop solar installation, October 2022

Three new 5-ton LG air-to-air heat pumps were installed in the 1988 addition in late December 2022 and early January 2023. They were officially online by January 15, 2023. The installation also included a 15 kW resistive electric heat backup unit, an industrial steam humidifying unit, and a high-end air filter utilizing UV, electrostatic, and filtration. Every room is individually zoned. One week after the switch to the new air-to-air heat pumps, there were a few nights of -17 below. At 7 am the following day, the facility still registered at the set point of 67 degrees.

Heat pumps are an important element in this project. The four 1958 building geothermal heat pumps are 450% efficient (due to the geothermal factor). The three 5-ton air-to-air heat pumps installed in the 1988 addition are still 350% efficient with no boring required!

Three 5-ton LG air source heat pumps serving the 1988 addition

Water Issues

The new courtyard below the solar pergola accomplished quite a bit for the project. Construction included removing the 2,000 gallon fuel oil barrel and the relocation of an outdated, unsightly Alliant Energy transformer.  The congregation decided it was in the best interest of the existing structure that the water issue be dealt with at this time. The congregation voted to pay for the recommended construction of the French drain. Good Shepherd Charter member Lindsay Erdman provided the official designs for the French drain. Legacy Concrete/Finholt Construction and Pinter Landscaping did the work.

Removal of the 1958 2,000 gallon fuel oil tank

This project included excavation to a prescribed 42″ depth. Unfortunately, we couldn’t anticipate the size of the old fuel oil barrel in that location. It was buried nearly 7′ deep and roughly 15′ long, requiring filling and compacting gravel every 5″ of rise. There is approximately 200 ton of compacted, crushed stone below this courtyard.

Local craftsman, Dale Kittelson, created the Douglas Fir post and beam pergola structure.

Construction of the doug fir pergola

Mission Green installed a permeable paver courtyard above the French drain and below the post and beam solar pergola to better reflect on the bi-facial solar panels. A stylized cross, copied from the 1958 architectural drawing for the original building, was added to the courtyard’s center. Mission Green installed architectural LED lighting and an outdoor sound system. This area will become a significant new space for events at Good Shepherd while adding to the efficiency of solar production.

The permeable paver courtyard speaks to the design elements of the original 1958 church

 The Solar Pergola

The racking system for the solar pergola is the real gem of the entire solar facility. It is from the Couillard Solar Foundation of Deerfield, WI. Cal Couillard, the CEO, formerly owned a large aluminum extrusion manufacturing factory. He sold it to a multi-national company and used portions of the sales receipts to establish a solar foundation that donates solar arrays to non-profits in Wisconsin. Cal developed and patented (pending) the anodized aluminum extrusion racking system that supports the pergola solar array. It is simple, super strong, elegant compared to the industry, and adaptable for various use cases.

Mission Green sought assistance from the Winneshiek Energy District and of Decorah.  We used local contractors extensively: Decorah Electric -Joel Teslow, Vick’s Heating and Plumbing – Steve Klemme, Legacy Concrete/Finholt Construction – Seth Klotzbach, Kittleson Woodworks – Dale Kittelson, Pinter Landscaping – Shane Pinter, Reed Fitton, and Tom Bourcier. There was also a list of volunteers too long to name. THANK YOU to all!!

Carbon Neutral Project Accomplished

Good Shepherd is now 100% electric. The gas meter was removed in February 2023. The Good Shepherd Carbon Neutral Project has replaced the fossil fuel HVAC system with four geothermal heat pumps, three air-to-air heat pumps, and a mini-split unit. It can heat/air condition the entire facility using solar electricity, all created onsite. LED lighting throughout the whole campus also reduces the overall electrical needs. Other efforts by the congregation to lower their Carbon Footprint include planting over 20 trees in the campus greenspace and considering adding a prairie wildflower/pollinator garden.

Current projections indicate that the 55 kW of onsite solar will provide 99.2% of needs. Current energy needs are now being met via solar production, and Alliant Energy Corp has granted us Full Net Metering. We’ll monitor the system for 12-18 months, but our hope/goal/aim is also to be Net Zero or even Net Positive.

Once the PPA and lease are completed, the congregation can use previous energy dollars for mission dollars instead. We’re proud of our combined efforts to Move the Needle in the fight against climate change.

With new national incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act (the IRA bill), this work is eligible for a 30% tax credit. The new Act also allows non-profits to recover this credit, which wasn’t possible when Good Shepherd joined Mission Green for this project. The current national programs are the best possible “sale” of renewable energy options in our lifetimes. Now is the time to act!! Let’s move the needle!





Can I buy an EV, Already?!

According to’s 2023 Electric Vehicle Survey, new car buyers’ top concerns with EVs include sky-high prices, range limitations, and a lack of public charging. As their data suggests, year-over-year progress has been made on all three of these fronts, with consumers increasingly warming to the idea of EV purchases.  Nevertheless, significant obstacles remain. The average MSRP of an EV has narrowed relative to that of gas powered models, albeit

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Does Solar Increase the Resale Value of Your House?

When it comes to buying and selling a home, what exactly is the value of solar? Does having solar panels on your roof actually increase your home’s value at the time of sale? How can you help potential buyers understand that your solar array will save them lots of money over time?

Solar as an asset and solar basics 

For most residential customers, solar is a straightforward and easy to understand investment. Installation prices have come down tremendously, net metering rules are favorable for customer owned generation (net metering is the ability to transfer excess power back to the grid and receive credit for it at retail rates for use in your home at a later time), resulting in short payback periods. For residential customers in Decorah, the return on investment of solar is as short as seven years, and the value of installing solar versus not installing solar can be worth many, many tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a system.

According to a 2019 analysis by Zillow, homes with solar sell for 4.1% more than homes without solar, resulting in a median sale price enhancement of $9,274. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis found that solar increases a home’s value $20 for every $1 reduction in utility bills. In other words, a solar system that produces $1,000 worth of electricity annually corresponds to an increased value of $20,000. Whether these numbers hold true or not depends on many factors, and to a large degree on how your realtor markets the presence of panels on your roof.

Solar, listing price, and the fact that money talks

Talk to any realtor and you’ll quickly learn that the presence of solar doesn’t directly translate into increased value. Just because you’ve spent $20,000 on solar doesn’t mean that value holds weight to anyone else. The same can be said for other energy-related pursuits, like electrification projects (heat pumps to replace fossil-burning furnaces, gas stove swap outs, etc), energy efficiency measures or energy-conscious construction and design decisions. First and foremost, prospective buyers are looking for shelter, and oftentimes energy efficiency is taken as an added plus. That said, home buyer surveys show energy efficiency is increasingly on the minds of homebuyers. 

With so many arrays installed locally (in excess of 500 in Winneshiek County alone!), it’s common to see real estate listings highlighting solar in various ways, with some recent listings mentioning “newly installed solar to help you save on energy costs” to “large 14 kW solar array…provides for peak energy efficiency. Average costs: Gas=$54/mo. – Electric=$73/mo.”. 

Whether a realtor actually understands the monetary value of solar or how to calculate it is an open question. Take the previous two examples: Back-of-the-napkin estimates reveal annual electricity production valued at $950 and $3,100 respectively, yet neither state this in the listing description. In both cases, the annual value of electricity produced is equal to about one month’s mortgage payment (assuming 15% down with a 30 year mortgage at 7% interest). That’s a lot of money!

Solar + Efficiency

Say you’ve installed solar, heat pumps and upgraded the electrical system and are ready to sell your house. How does one go about conveying the value of that? Unlike solar, heat pumps and other electrification upgrades don’t have a clearly defined returns on investment, other than potential savings in cost of operation and potential health benefits of not combusting gas in the home. According to one realtor I spoke to in anticipation of this article, selling energy efficiency or renewable energy, in theory, shouldn’t be much different than selling a new kitchen or a tiled bath. It’s about telling a story of lower energy costs and a healthier home.

To that end it’s important your realtor understands the potential value of electrification upgrades. Heat pump water heaters are cheaper to operate than their natural gas, liquid propane or electric resistance counterparts. Heat pumps for space heating are often at cost parity with natural gas, and cheaper to operate than liquid propane, and depending on configuration, provide unparalleled cooling comfort and efficiency. In addition, induction stoves have clear health benefits over gas stoves.

The value enhancement of solar is quite obvious, so long as it’s being conveyed in terms of dollar savings both annually and over the lifetime of the equipment; surveys by Zillow and others confirm as much. Whether other electrification activities add value the way solar does is less clear, and given that, it’s important realtors understand potential cost of operation and health benefits of electric appliances and HVAC equipment.


Decorah Businesses Encouraged to Utilize Energy Efficiency Programs

Decorah Businesses Encouraged to Utilize Energy Efficiency Programs

By Jim Martin-Schramm, Clean Energy Districts of Iowa Policy Analyst

According to a study completed in 2020, the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Decorah comes from the Commercial sector (28.4%).  Electricity use makes up 61% of these emissions and natural gas represents the remaining 39% of emissions.

The Decorah Sustainability Commission encourages local businesses to help reduce these emissions and to save money by making use of the ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs offered by Alliant Energy and Black Hills Energy.

Given the disproportionate impact of electricity-related emissions, the commission encourages local businesses to participate in Alliant’s Small Business Energy Solutions Program, which helps businesses invest in more efficient lighting and refrigeration systems.

Interested businesses start by selecting one of the two participating local contractors (Perry Novak Electric or See Electric).  These companies will evaluate current lighting and/or refrigeration, identify improvement opportunities, and provide a proposal with upgrade recommendations, project costs, paybacks, and rebate information. Alliant Energy pays up to 70% of the completed project cost directly to the contractor. The business pays the balance.

To be eligible, businesses must receive electric service from Alliant Energy, have an annual electric billing of less than $100,000, occupy less than 50,000 square feet, and receive landlord approval if the facility is leased.  In addition, installed lighting must be ENERGY STAR or Design Lights Consortium qualified.  For further information, contact Novak Electric, See Electric, or Dylan Kullasch at

Taking Stock: Iowa Clean Energy Policy Mid-2023

On the Scandinavian judgement scale that runs from “could be better” to “not so bad” to “pretty good”, the status of clean energy policy in Iowa could be categorized as somewhere in the “not so bad” range, though with risks to the downside. Given the headwinds that have been building against clean energy across the Heartland, we are fortunate to have not yet slipped into “could be better” territory. Clean energy is holding ground in Iowa thanks to dedicated advocates and organizations from across the spectrum, and Iowa’s 12 clean energy districts have played no small role in this accomplishment. Thank you … and keep those sleeves rolled up!

Briefly, we’ll summarize the 2023 legislative session, then discuss key Iowa Utilities Board issues, and finally a forward-looking combination of the two. The Clean Energy Districts of Iowa (CEDI) actively advocates for a just clean energy future, with prosperity and a liveable climate for all.

Iowa’s 2023 Legislative Session

Coming into 2023, there was a great deal of worry around bills that could significantly restrict the siting of utility-scale solar and wind projects. This has been a trend at the county level around Iowa and the Midwest (as we discussed in February), and the level of statewide siting restrictions proposed in SSB1077 and SF2 would have effectively killed most new large-scale renewable energy development. These bills did not advance, thanks to opposition from utilities, the solar industry, and clean energy advocates such as many of you. Thank you, and thanks to my colleague Brian Krambeer of MiEnergy for joining me in this guest column in the Register. These bills/efforts could return next session, so we’ll need to remain vigilant … and work for better solutions in the interim.

Additional bills with significant potential downsides that did not pass include an effort to provide “innovative rates” to via community-solar-only-for-big-business but excluding all others (HF600/SSB1173), an effort to freeze Iowa’s building energy code at the 2012 standard (SF479), and an effort to change “advanced ratemaking” rules without requiring integrated resource planning (SSB1149). On the flip side, some legislation detrimental to clean energy did make it through. HF248 unfortunately guts much of the current regulatory authority of the Iowa Utilities Board over emissions from fossil fuel generation sources. SF514 – the government re-organization bill – exposes the Office of the Consumer Advocate to political interference through removing merit protection for employees, and other changes. Both of those bills represent harmful utility deregulation at the expense of Iowa ratepayers and communities, as we wrote about recently in The Electric Monopoly’s Company Store.
Good bills that didn’t make it through are worth noting too, in part because they’re worth continued
advocacy for next year. SF332 would establish a limited community solar program, allowing virtual net metering and meter aggregation. And SSB1059 would establish an integrated resource planning process for Iowa’s investor-owned electric utilities.

Iowa Utilities Board and Iowa Supreme Court

These are interesting times at the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), in part because this spring brought about a significant change in composition. Board Chair Geri Huser resigned, and Sarah Martz was appointed to serve out her term until April, 2027. Board member Dick Lozier’s term ended, and Erik Helland was appointed to the seat, and named Chair. Josh Byrnes was appointed in 2020, and remains serving. There is always much happening at the IUB, and three major topics deserve special mention right now.

The five-year energy efficiency plan dockets are in full swing for each of Iowa’s investor-owned energy utilities – Alliant, MidAmerican, and Black Hills. CEDI is intervening and submitting extensive comments and testimony in all three dockets, which is a very significant undertaking.
CEDI priorities in the efficiency plans include 1) complementarity with the efficiency and electrification incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (especially heat pumps for heating/cooling), 2) the funding of high quality, in-person technical assistance to all ratepayers through qualified local providers such as energy districts, and 3) increased funding and more effective assistance for lower-income households, that face energy burdens often 3-4 times those of moderate and upper income households.

In early 2022, MidAmerican Energy filed its “Wind Prime” application for advanced ratemaking
principles (or ARP docket) on roughly 2 gigawatts of new wind and 50 megawatts of solar.
Environmental groups intervened, filing extensive testimony demonstrating that investments in much
larger quantities of solar with storage, combined with the retirement of the company’s aging coal plants, would be better for ratepayers.

The Board’s final order approved Wind Prime ratemaking principles but with severe limitations,
consumer protections, and significant requirements for resource planning, that together bode well for
future cases. CEDI applauds the work of intervenors, and the courage of the Board in the face of
extreme levels of corporate and political pressure.

Another docket related to MidAmerican’s failure to consider coal plant retirements reached the Iowa
Supreme Court recently. When company filed their required emission plan and budget in 2020, both the Office of Consumer Advocate and environmental groups criticized the company’s plan for failing to consider the coal plant retirement, and presented evidence demonstrating at least two plants were
uneconomical for ratepayers, and should be retired.

The Utilities Board rejected the intervenor’s evidence and approved the company’s plan, the
environmental groups appealed, and the Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled that the Board must
consider the evidence on coal plant economics provided by intervenors. This is a landmark ruling that could support the relevance of poor coal plant economics (relative to renewable energy and storage) in multiple future Board dockets.

The Study Docket … and Looking Ahead

A study docket, sounds pretty dry doesn’t it? Maybe only clean energy nerds get excited over a study, but thankfully, there are a great many such folks in the energy districts and our clean energy colleagues across the state.

Faced with a flurry of energy related bills, the Legislature wisely punted on some, in favor of a common tactic – directing the relevant regulatory agency to study the issues and report back. HF617 states

The utilities board shall initiate and coordinate an independent review of current Iowa Code
provisions and ratemaking procedures. The review shall take into account the policy objectives of
ensuring safe, adequate, reliable, and affordable utility services provided at rates that are
nondiscriminatory, just, reasonable, and based on the utility’s cost of providing service to
customers within the state.

We anticipate that the Board will soon open a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) docket, and likely issue an RFP for a consulting firm to coordinate the study. All stakeholders will have the opportunity to submit
comments and testimony on a broad range of topics related to energy rates in the state.
We anticipate the investor-owned utilities will vigorously promote policy changes that further the
interests of their investors, and their largest customers. Conversely, clean energy and localism advocates have an opportunity to build the case for a broad set of policies that would achieve a just, affordable, reliable, and resilient clean energy future that generates local prosperity and climate stewardship for generations.

CEDI (and we expect numerous member districts) will be fully engaged in this process, always working hard to move from “not so bad” to “pretty good” Iowa energy policy and reality.

Building Electrification: The Devil’s in the Details

Browsing Rewiring America’s website, it’s easy to get excited about the potential benefits of home electrification. Heat pumps, induction stoves, ventless heat pump clothes dryers, breaker boxes, rooftop solar, EVs, etc. All relatively straightforward, and most–with Inflation Reduction Act incentives–cheap and easy. Right? In reality, not so fast.  I was recently contacted by a Decorah couple to provide some recommendations for home electrification. The couple had the money and were

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2023 Winneshiek Energy District Home Tour, June 10th

Tour area homes and learn about solar installations, heat pumps, energy efficiency, and sustainable building practices! Winneshiek Energy District is excited to partner with six Decorah area homeowners for self-guided tours, Saturday, June 10th from 1-4pm. Visit as many as you can in an afternoon (or perhaps all!) and come away inspired to implement these practices at your own home. Participants are free to come and go as they please, and homeowners will be on-site to share their experiences.


Dan and Linda Canton, 2746 West Ridge Rd, Waukon (roughly 13 miles east of Decorah)

Off-grid, 6.0kW solar, 5.0kW lithium iron-phosphate battery backup, backup LP generator, air source heat pump for AC and supplemental heating, in-floor heat, electric riding lawn mower, electric chainsaws, timber frame, energy efficiency, and much more!

Built with efficiency in mind, this timber frame, off-grid home features 6.0kW of solar connected to 5.0kW of lithium iron phosphate battery storage, a wood stove for heating and cooking, and mini split and in-floor radiant heat for backup. The Cantons have developed several creative solutions to combat the challenges of living off grid, like “banking” solar production through preheating and precooling, utilizing an electric riding lawn mower and electric chainsaws for harvesting wood.


Chris Frantsvog, 504 Jefferson Street, Decorah 

4.0kW solar, ductless cold climate air source heat pump, hybrid heat pump water heater, newly constructed energy efficient addition

This modest 19th century brick home coupled with a newly constructed SIP panel and brick veneered addition features rooftop solar on both the house and garage, a multi-zone Mitsubishi cold climate ductless heat pump, and a hybrid heat pump water heater. Old and new held in balance!

Rolf and Laura Peterson, 109 Crescent Ave, Decorah

Ducted cold climate heat pump, 6kW rooftop solar, wood stove, soon-to-be installed hybrid heat pump water heater

This home typifies what whole-home electrification might look like for those of us living in existing mid 20th century homes. The Petersons are in the final stages of converting all systems to electric and they plan to cap the gas line once the new heat pump water heater is installed. Two years ago the Petersons installed 6kW of rooftop solar and swapped their gas furnace with an LG ducted air source heat pump. Come learn from the Petersons and be inspired to do the same at your house!

Porter House Museum, 401 West Broadway St, Decorah

4.5kW rooftop solar, four ductless heat pumps for climate control

Lack of climate control is the death of any museum collection. Come see how the Porter House Museum solved this vexing problem without adding financial strain to the organization’s bottom line. 4.5kW of rooftop solar paired with ductless heat pumps for air conditioning and shoulder season heating were designed and installed to complement this 19th century Italianate home, all while reducing the museum’s electric use. 

Kevin and Leslie Sand, 2597 Quarry Hill Rd, Decorah

14kW pole-mounted solar, two ductless heat pumps

Concerned with the amount of propane required to heat their home (and to say nothing of its ever increasing cost!) the Sands installed 14kW of pole-mounted solar and coupled it with two ductless cold climate Mitsubishi heat pumps. The Sand’s home is a great model for those trying to implement electric heating without existing ductwork.

Perry-O and David Sliwa, 2918 Middle Sattre Rd, Decorah (roughly 5 miles north of Decorah)

4.5kW solar, 1.5kW wind generator, plug-in hybrid vehicle, double wall construction, triple pane windows, passive house principles, in-floor electric heat, ductless heat pump for supplemental heating and AC, and much more!

Incorporating the lessons from living off the grid for forty years, the Sliwas built their retirement home in 2016 with efficiency as the guiding principle. The thoughtfully designed home features numerous passive house concepts like superior levels of insulation, winter solar gain through plentiful south-facing windows and summer shading through extended roof overhangs, and optimal site orientation. Requiring minimal energy to heat and cool, all systems are electric and are offset through on-site solar and wind production.


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