A newly formed group with the goal of transitioning Jackson County to locally owned clean energy introduced itself to community members Tuesday night.
The vision of the Jackson County Energy District is 100 percent local renewable energy by 2050, said Bruce Fisher, a Monmouth resident who is the chairman of the district’s six-member board comprised of local people.
“We have a two-fold purpose. First is to drive energy stewardship in the county,” Fisher said. Second is “to reap the tremendous economic value associated with the energy district model.”
The goal, he said, is to reverse the millions of dollars leaving Jackson County every year to pay for energy costs.
Lower energy bills, economic and job growth, and thoughtful stewardship of the natural resources and climate go hand-in-hand with that effort – “where green meets green,” he told about 50 people who attended an informational meeting about the nonprofit group at the Maquoketa Country Club.
Initiatives for the coming year include quarterly education and awareness events on such topics as solar power, low cost/high impact energy efficiency investments, electric vehicles, and farm and main street energy planning.
The district also will promote home energy efficiency audits, LED retrofits and home efficiency upgrades, an LED bulb exchange, legislator and local leader clean energy tours, school clean energy education lessons, and facilitating local government zoning reform to reduce barriers for locally owned solar.
The energy district is a great way to help with community revitalization because it keeps money local, said State Rep. Andy McKean, D-Anamosa.
He noted that Iowa is the first state in the nation to generate more than 30 percent of its energy through wind power and ranks second in capacity. Coal use was more than 70 percent in 2008 and now is under 40 percent thanks to wind energy and other initiatives.
Iowa also produces the most ethanol and is one of the top biodiesel producers.
He is committed to pushing legislation that will support clean energy initiatives and conservation practices.
“I’m concerned there are too many leaders who don’t grasp the potential of renewable energy and actually make light of it,” he said. “It’s important to sustain the local economy.”
Joleen Jansen, a clean energy district start-up coach, talked about how the Iowa energy district movement started in Winneshiek County more than 10 years ago.
Since then more than $14 million in local investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy have been made in that county. More than 100 jobs have been created or retained, more than 100,000 tons of carbon emissions were reduced, and energy stewardship is part of the community fabric.
Eight counties in Iowa now have energy districts, she said, noting how the movement has some historic roots.
The impact of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression in the 1930s created a perfect storm, prompting President Franklin Roosevelt to act.
“As a result, we now have soil and water conservation districts in every U.S. county,” she said.
That’s what she’d like to see with energy districts.
The Jackson County group is gearing up for 2020 with many activities and is currently looking for support from businesses, private citizens and organizations.
For more information or to donate online visit jacksoncounty.energydistrict.org.