Iowa clean energy supporters are anxious to see how a new voice on Des Moines City Council will affect the city’s energy future in this important year. Indira Sheumaker, who is a Black Liberation Movement member, won one of the city’s six council seats by defeating a two-term incumbent. Her candidacy was centered on racial justice as well as police reform. She also spoke out in favor of renewable energy.
As the city continues to negotiate a new franchise deal with provider MidAmerican Energy in 2022, supporters want Sheumaker to take a louder stand for renewable energy and energy equity compared to her predecessor. Sheumaker was in agreement. “I’m going to be a lot more aggressive,” she declared. “I recognize the importance of making significant changes right now. It will have an impact on my future.”
The Des Moines City Council established one of the nation’s most ambitious renewable energy goals in January, aiming for 100 percent carbon-free electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week by 2035. Unlike net-zero, which entails matching production with the number of hours the city truly consumes power, 24/7 involves matching production with the number of hours the city actually utilizes power.
Without MidAmerican’s buy-in, the goal may be impossible to achieve. Despite becoming a national pioneer in wind energy, MidAmerican owns and operates five coal-fired power facilities. As the city tries to negotiate a new franchise agreement, a multi-year deal that spells out the rules of the utility doing business in the city, the company’s portfolio is expected to be a sticking point.
Josh Mandelbaum, who works as a clean energy lawyer who was just re-elected to Des Moines City Council, views the franchise deal as an opportunity to pressure MidAmerican to assist the city to accomplish its 24/7 clean power target, which it would likely be unable to achieve without dismantling its coal facilities. Sheumaker stated that she agrees with this technique. Sheumaker stated, “I plan to push for that.”
Sheumaker is expected to be an advocate for clean energy and bring an important viewpoint on equality in the city’s clean energy transition, according to Kari Carney, who works as the executive director in charge of the environmental charity 1,000 Friends of Iowa. In order to ensure that no individual is left behind in clean energy transition, Carney and his team have been working on figuring out how to put up the low-income solar, how to develop inclusive financing, and how to convince landlords to do more in the area of energy efficiency, among other things.
According to Jess Mazour, who is a conservation coordinator for Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter, Sheumaker will make “a significant difference” in the council’s approach to energy issues. She’s dissatisfied with the city’s energy policy, which she believes lacks vision. When the city council is considering how to proceed, she noted, the city has traditionally presented “option A” and “option B.” “Indira is going to present ‘Option C,’ which no one else is discussing.”