GUEST VIEW: Municipal electric utilities can be independent

By Katie Rock [email protected] Center for Rural Affairs

When it comes to rural development, the town of Bloomfield, in southeast Iowa, is holding its own, and can act as a model for other municipal electric utilities.

A 2014 study concluded Bloomfield (population 2,643) could become energy independent in its use of electricity by 2030. The city council is now pursuing a combination of efficiency upgrades and investments in clean, renewable energy.

In the study, six strategies are summarized to achieve energy independence. The first strategy focuses on implementing a comprehensive set of energy efficiency programs that would reduce electricity use by 23 percent over 10 years. The next set of strategies would use diesel generators and other equipment to help reduce peak loads. The remaining strategies outline how Bloomfield could achieve 50 percent, 75 percent, or 100 percent of its electricity through solar and wind.

For 100 percent independence, Bloomfield would need to add 11,400 kilowatts (kW) of solar power, two large wind turbines, and 130 kW of microturbines over 10 years.

The installation of wind and solar power generation would bring an estimated $35 million of investment and new jobs in construction and maintenance of projects.

Bloomfield offers an alternative to rural development that combines community engagement with investments leading to broad savings and environmental benefits for the public, including property owners, residents, and schools.

Your town could also strive for energy independence while offering the benefits of small town living.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.