Wind and solar energy are magnets for new business. As former speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives Ron Corbett put it:
Speaker Corbett should know – as he now serves as an executive at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, responsible for talking to businesses interested in locating in the Cedar Rapids area.
Renewables Attract New Businesses. Moratoriums Discourage Them.
But wind or solar moratoriums slam the door shut on these opportunities and say no, stay out – and take your new jobs and economic development with you!
It’s not just renewable energy developers who hear that message. Companies from all sectors of the economy are attracted to states with strong policies supporting clean and low-cost energy development hear it too.
But counties that pass moratoriums might as well hang a sign that says, “closed for business.”
Imagine if that’s the message that Apple heard, before it opened in Waukee (10,000 jobs), or Google in Council Bluffs (900 jobs) or Facebook in Altoona (300 jobs). These are all companies with policies that call for running their businesses on cleaner energy. Some will scoff at corporations for adopting these policies, but no one should sneer at the jobs they bring to Iowa families. We shouldn’t let misinformation and not-in-my-backyard opposition chase jobs away from the state to Illinois or Wisconsin.
Moratoriums Rob Communities of Economic Development
Wind and solar projects come with millions of dollars of economic development and new property tax payments to the counties where they locate. As my friend and former state representative Libby Jacobs has noted, “by tapping into solar energy sources, Iowa can draw incredible investment opportunities. These investments power Iowa small town economies.”
This is a golden opportunity for rural Iowa, with investment money poised to go to communities like Independence, Clinton, Marshalltown or Mason City. For once, major employers are looking to invest in places other than Chicago or Minneapolis or somewhere on the east or west coast.
Most Iowans Support Renewables
A majority of Iowans get it. More than 70% of Iowa voters agree that wind and solar are a positive for rural communities, according to our recent statewide survey. And 64% say renewables are a force for good, providing funds for local improvements in school, roads, parks and other vital projects.
Farmers are also increasingly looking to renewable energy development to diversify their income. Voters are supportive of that option, with 64% agreeing farmers should not be told by the government what to do with their land and can develop renewable energy projects if they choose. It’s a property rights issue. Moratoriums don’t even give farmers that choice.
Everyone, of course, wants to move forward with renewables in a way that makes sense for their communities. But we know how to do that. Reasonable setbacks, screening and solid decommissioning agreements all work to help make wind and solar fit. And each County Board of Supervisors controls what agreements are in place with renewable developers through the normal course of business. Putting a moratorium in place is the most drastic course of action a county can take.
Opportunity Won’t Wait
Once in place, moratoriums tend to linger. In Linn County a moratorium that was intended to last 3 months has stretched to more than half a year and counting. A recently passed moratorium in Buchanan is for one year, but an extension already seems likely. Moratoriums too often are a club that not-in-my-backyard activists wield to halt development. Once that club is in their hands, it’s difficult to pry it loose.
Opportunity doesn’t wait. A company deciding where to add a new manufacturing plant isn’t going to sit idle running out the clock on a moratorium. They’re going to go somewhere else.
Let’s Keep the Door Open to Opportunity for Young Iowans
As I write this, it’s graduation season. The class of 2023 is looking for rewarding new careers – which hopefully they can find here in Iowa. How many of those opportunities are being lost because too many Iowa counties are slamming the door on the future. We may never know.
Let’s not waste their future. Let’s support renewable energy, end moratoriums, and keep the door open for opportunity.