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Iowa   Iowa Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: March 16, 2017

Overview

Located between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, Iowa's gently rolling plains have some of the richest farmland in the nation and significant renewable energy resources. The state's climate, with rainfall in the growing season and dry air at harvest, together with Iowa's deep topsoils, produce abundant grain crops.1 The state leads the nation in the production of both corn and ethanol.2,3 Unobstructed winds blow across Iowa's open prairie, giving the state significant wind resources.4 With its many days of sunshine each year, Iowa has solar energy potential as well.5 However, Iowa has few fossil energy resources and no crude oil or natural gas production.6,7

Manufacturing and agriculture make Iowa one of the five largest energy-consuming states.

With its significant industrial sector, Iowa ranks fifth in the nation in energy use per capita, placing the state above the national median in total energy consumption despite its small population. Iowa is the only non-petroleum-producing state among the five largest energy-consuming states.8 The industrial sector leads Iowa's end-use energy consumption, accounting for half of the state total.9 Agriculture, biofuels production, and manufacturing are key Iowa industries.10 Iowa consistently ranks among the top 10 states in the nation in the share of gross domestic product (GDP) from manufacturing.11 Iowa's manufactured products include food and beverages; machinery; fabricated metals; transportation equipment; computers and electronics; plastics; and chemicals. Food and beverage production alone provides one-fifth of the state's manufacturing GDP.12 The transportation sector uses about one-fifth of the energy consumed by end users in Iowa, less than half as much as the industrial sector. The residential sector and the commercial sector together account for less than one-third of the state's end-use consumption.13

Petroleum

Iowa is not a petroleum-producing state.14 Of the approximately 135 exploration wells drilled in the state, only 2 ever produced oil. Those wells are no longer producing, and their combined total production was less than 500 barrels of crude oil.15 Iowa does not have any oil refineries and relies on pipelines to bring in petroleum products from other states.16,17 Iowa ranks third among the states in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) consumption. Nearly three-fourths of LPG is consumed by the state's industrial sector, where consumption by farmers to dry their corn after harvest rises in wet years.18,19,20 More than one in eight Iowa households heat with LPG, making the residential sector's consumption almost triple the national average.21,22

Nearly half of the petroleum consumed in Iowa is used as motor gasoline.23 Iowa allows the statewide use of conventional motor gasoline without ethanol.24 However, Iowa has one-fourth of the nation's total ethanol production capacity, and most motor gasoline is blended with ethanol.25,26 Blends ranging from E-10 (10% ethanol and 90% motor gasoline) to E-85 (85% ethanol and 15% motor gasoline) are sold across the state.27,28

Natural gas

Iowa does not have any natural gas production, but the state is crossed by four interstate natural gas pipeline systems and has four natural gas storage fields that together account for about 3% of U.S. storage capacity.29,30,31,32 Natural gas enters Iowa from Canada by pipelines that cross North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, while other pipelines bring natural gas from the south and southwest into the state.33,34 More than four-fifths of the natural gas entering Iowa continues on to markets in the Midwest and beyond.35

Natural gas provides about one-fifth of the total energy consumed in Iowa.36 More than half of the natural gas delivered to end users in the state is consumed in the industrial sector. The residential sector, where almost two-thirds of households use natural gas as their primary home heating fuel, consumes about one-fifth of the natural gas delivered to end users in Iowa.37,38

Coal

Coal mining began in Iowa in the 1840s and continued until the 1990s. In the 1910s, there were more than 400 coal mines located in the southern half of the state, many supplying the railroad locomotives that crossed the state. Today, there are no active coal mines in Iowa, but the state still has an estimated 1.1 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves,39,40,41 located primarily in south central Iowa.42 There are also deeply buried coal resources in southwestern Iowa, where underground mining is currently not economically feasible. The resource potential of any associated coalbed methane in Iowa is unknown.43,44

Almost all of the coal consumed in Iowa is subbituminous coal brought by rail from Wyoming and delivered to electric power generators; a few small shipments come from other states for industrial uses.45 Iowa is home to about 1% of the nation's population, but the state consumes more coal for electricity generation than 28 other states. In 2015, that level of consumption made Iowa the 11th largest per capita consumer of coal for power generation.46,47,48

Electricity

More than one-third of Iowa’s net electricity generation comes from wind.

Iowa's five largest power plants by capacity are all coal-fired, and coal is the primary fuel used for electricity generation in the state.49 However, coal's contribution has declined as wind's share has grown. As recently as 2008, coal accounted for three-fourths of Iowa's net electricity generation. In 2016, for the first time in decades, coal-fired plants produced less than half of the electricity generated in the state. Wind, the second-largest source, accounted for more than one-third of Iowa's net generation, growing from 7.7% in 2008. The state's only nuclear power plant, Duane Arnold, with its single reactor, is the fifth-smallest operating nuclear power plant in the nation,50 but on average it provides nearly one-tenth of the state's net electricity generation. The amount of electricity generated from natural gas in Iowa has fluctuated, but natural gas-fired power plants typically contribute less than 5% of the state's net generation. Small amounts of electricity from hydroelectric and biomass sources account for most of the rest of the state's power generation. 51,52 Iowa typically generates more electricity than it consumes.53 More than two-fifths of retail electricity is sold to the industrial sector, and Iowa's retail electricity rates are among the lowest one-fifth of states.54,55

Renewable energy

Iowa obtained more than one-third of its net electricity generation from wind in 2016, the highest share of any state. Iowa is second only to Texas in the total amount of electricity generated from wind.56 The strongest winds occur in northwestern Iowa, and, although there are wind facilities across the state, most of the wind power plants in Iowa are located in the state's north and west.57,58 Iowa's wind resources place it among the nation's leading states in the percentage of in-state electricity generation from renewable resources other than hydroelectric power. About 2% of the state's net electricity generation comes from hydroelectric power and biomass.59 The Iowa Energy Center has created the Biomass Energy Conversion Facility to focus on development of Iowa's abundant biomass resource potential.60 Iowa's number of sunny days and its resulting solar power potential increase from northeast to southwest across the state.61 Only a small amount of solar photovoltaic electricity is generated in Iowa, all from distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) facilities.62,63

Iowa produces more ethanol than any other state in the nation.

Iowa is the leading ethanol-producing state in the nation and has one-fourth of the nation's ethanol production capacity.64,65 The state's ethanol plants have a combined productive capacity of about 4 billion gallons per year. Iowa's plentiful cornfields provide the feedstock for most of the state's 44 ethanol plants, which include three cellulosic ethanol plants that use agricultural waste, either corn stover (the stalk, leaf, cob, and husk left after harvest) or corn kernel fiber, as feedstocks.66,67 A plant that will use municipal solid waste as a feedstock is in development.68 Iowa also has a dozen biodiesel plants with a combined productive capacity of more than 330 million gallons per year.69 Iowa has the second-largest biodiesel production capacity in the nation, after Texas.70 In 2016, the state produced a record 297 million gallons of biodiesel.71

Iowa's energy policies and regulations promote energy efficiency and renewable resources. In 1983, Iowa became the first state in the nation to adopt a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). State regulations required Iowa's two investor-owned electric utilities to own or to contract for a combined total of 105 megawatts of renewable generating capacity and associated production, from facilities approved by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB).72 Capacity from eligible renewable resources has exceeded the RPS goals. In 2008, the IUB, at the direction of the state legislature, established energy efficiency standards for each regulated electric and natural gas utility in the state. Municipal and cooperative utilities were required to set their own energy efficiency goals.73 In addition to energy efficiency standards, the Mandatory Utility Green Power Option requires all electric utilities operating in Iowa, including those not rate-regulated by the IUB, to offer renewable-sourced power options to their customers.74

Endnotes

1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Climatic Data Center, Climate of Iowa, accessed February 3, 2017.
2 National Agriculture in the Classroom, A Look at Iowa Agriculture, updated July 2016.
3 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, Ethanol Facilities Nameplate Capacity and Operating Production Ranked by State, updated October 20, 2016.
4 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Iowa Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, updated September 24, 2015.
5 Current Results, Days of Sunshine per Year in Iowa, accessed February 3, 2017.
6 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2015.
7 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Reserves and Supply updated January 19, 2017.
8 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C13, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
9 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
10 Smith, Jeff, "Top 5 Industries in Iowa: Which Parts of the Economy Are Strongest?" Newsmax (April 5, 2015).
11 Iowa State University, Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations, Manufacturing in Iowa (July 2015), p. 1.
12 Iowa State University, Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations, Manufacturing in Iowa (July 2015), p. 4.
13 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
14 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed February 3, 2017.
15 McKay, Robert M., Mineral Resource Facts, accessed February 3, 2017.
16 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Total Number of Operable Refineries as of January 1, 2011-16.
17 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Distribution and Marketing, accessed February 3, 2017.
18 Wilcke, Bill, "Energy Costs for Corn Drying and Cooling," University of Minnesota Extension, Corn Production, accessed February 3, 2017.
19 U.S. EIA, "Propane Use for Crop Drying Depends on Weather and Corn Markets as well as Crop Size,' Today in Energy (October 2, 2014).
20 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F12, Liquefied Petroleum Gases Consumption Estimates, 2014.
21 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Iowa, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
22 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Consumption and Expenditures, Energy Source Used for Home Heating (share of households), accessed February 3, 2017.
23 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C2, Energy Consumption Estimates for Major Energy Sources in Physical Units, 2014.
24 Gardner, K. W., U.S. Gasoline Requirements, American Petroleum Institute (June 2015).
25 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities Nameplate Capacity and Operating Production Ranked by State, updated October 20, 2016.
26 Cole, Kevin, "At Gas Pumps in Nebraska, Iowa, All Unleaded Fuel Will Be Ethanol Blend,' Omaha World Herald (September 27, 2013).
27 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Alternative Fueling Station Locator, Ethanol (E85), Iowa, accessed February 3, 2017.
28 Iowa Corn, Higher Blends, accessed February 18, 2017.
29 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed February 3, 2017.
30 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Distribution and Marketing, accessed February 3, 2017.
31 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Number of Existing Fields, 2010-15.
32 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Storage Capacity, Annual, 2010-15.
33 U.S. EIA, About U.S. Natural Gas Pipelines, Natural Gas Pipelines in the Midwest Region, accessed February 3, 2017.
34 U.S. EIA, About U.S. Natural Gas Pipelines, Natural Gas Pipelines in the Central Region, accessed February 3, 2017.
35 U.S. EIA, International & Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Iowa, Annual, 2010-15.
36 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C1, Energy Consumption Overview: Estimates by Energy Source and End-Use Sector, 2014.
37 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Iowa, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
38 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Iowa, Annual, 2010-15.
39 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2015.
40 Hoehnle, Peter, "Types of Business and Industry," Iowa Pathways, accessed February 3, 2017.
41 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2015 and 2014.
42 Iowa Pathways, Coal Mining Towns, accessed February 3, 2017.
43 McKay, Robert M., Mineral Resource Facts, accessed February 3, 2017.
44 U.S. EIA, Coalbed Methane Proved Reserves, as of Dec. 31, 2010-15.
45 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), Domestic distribution of U.S. coal by destination State, consumer, destination and method of transportation, Iowa.
46 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 26, U.S. Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, Census Division, and State, 2015 and 2014.
47 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Energy Indicators, accessed February 3, 2017.
48 U.S. Census Bureau, State Population Totals Tables: 2010-2016, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016 (NST-EST2016-01), 2015 Population Estimates.
49 U.S. EIA, Iowa Electricity Profile 2015, Table 2, Ten Largest Plants by Generation Capacity, 2015.
50 World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power in the USA, Appendix 1: U.S. Operating Nuclear Reactors, updated November 2016.
51 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Detailed State Data, Annual data, 1990-2015 Net Generation by State by Type of Producer by Energy Source (EIA-906, EIA-920, and EIA-923).
52 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.7.B, 1.9.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.14.B, 1.15.B, 1.17.B.
53 U.S. EIA, Iowa Electricity Profile 2015, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2015.
54 U.S. EIA, Iowa Electricity Profile 2015, Table 8, Retail sales, revenue, and average retail price by sector, 1990 through 2015.
55 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 5.6.B.
56 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.14.B.
57 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Iowa Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, updated September 24, 2015.
58 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Overview, Wind Power Plant Map Layer, accessed February 6, 2017.
59 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.11.B, 1.15.B.
60 Iowa Energy Center, Biomass Energy Conversion (BECON) Facility, accessed February 6, 2017.
61 Iowa Energy Center, Iowa Solar Maps, accessed February 6, 2017.
62 Solar Energy Industries Association, State Solar Policy, Iowa Solar, accessed February 6, 2017.
63 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.17.B.
64 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, Ethanol Facilities Nameplate Capacity and Operating Production Ranked by State, updated October 20, 2016.
65 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Environment, accessed February 6, 2017.
66 "U.S. Ethanol Plant List, All Platforms, Existing,' Ethanol Producer Magazine, updated February 6, 2017.
67 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Environment, accessed February 7, 2017.
68 Hellmann, Jessie, "Marion's Waste-to-Fuel Quest Undergoes Another Twist,' The Gazette (February 22, 2016).
69 "USA Plants, Existing,' Biodiesel Magazine, updated December 12, 2016.
70 U.S. EIA, Monthly Biodiesel Production Report (January 2017), Table 4, Biodiesel producers and production capacity by state, November 2016.
71 Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, "Iowa Biodiesel Production Smashes Record in 2016,' Press Release (December 28, 2016).
72 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Iowa Alternative Energy Law, updated December 9, 2016.
73 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Iowa Energy Efficiency Standard, updated December 9, 2016.
74 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Iowa Mandatory Utility Green Power Option, updated January 29, 2016.