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Iowa   Iowa Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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

Last Updated: March 15, 2018

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 energy resources.4 With its many days of sunshine each year, Iowa has solar energy potential as well.5,6,7 However, the state has few fossil energy resources and no crude oil or natural gas production.8,9

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

On a per capita basis, Iowa is the only non-petroleum-producing state among the largest energy-consuming states. Despite its small population, Iowa's significant industrial sector places the state fifth in the nation in energy use per capita.10 The industrial sector leads Iowa's end-use energy consumption, accounting for half of the state total.11 Agriculture, food production, biofuels production, and manufacturing are key Iowa industries.12 Iowa consistently ranks among the top 10 states in the nation in the share of gross domestic product (GDP) from manufacturing.13,14 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 more than one-fifth of the state's manufacturing GDP.15,16 The transportation sector uses about one-fifth of the energy consumed by end users in Iowa, much less than is used by the industrial sector. The residential sector and the commercial sector together account for the rest of the state's end-use consumption.17

Renewable energy

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. The state's ethanol plants can produce about 4 billion gallons per year. Iowa's plentiful cornfields provide the feedstock for most of the state's 44 ethanol plants. Three cellulosic ethanol plants use agricultural waste—either corn stover (the stalk, leaf, cob, and husk left after harvest) or corn kernel fiber—as feedstocks.18,19 Although Iowa has fewer than 10 biodiesel plants, the combined production capacity of those plants is more than 350 million gallons per year, about one-seventh of the nation's total.20 The state has the second-largest biodiesel production capacity in the nation, after Texas.21

Nearly two-fifths of Iowa's net electricity generation comes from renewable resources, almost entirely from wind.22 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. In 2016, wind energy powered more than one-third of Iowa's net electricity generation, the highest share of any state, and only Texas and Oklahoma surpassed Iowa in the total amount of electricity generated from wind.23 The strongest winds occur in northwestern Iowa, and, although there are wind facilities across the state, most of the wind farms in Iowa are located in the state's north and west.24,25

More than one-third of Iowa’s net electricity generation comes from wind, a larger share than in any other state.

About 2% of Iowa's net electricity generation comes from renewable resources other than wind. Although biomass and solar energy each contribute a small amount, almost all of the renewable generation that is not from wind is from hydroelectric power.26 The largest of Iowa's three hydroelectric plants is more than 100 years old and is the largest privately-owned and operated dam and hydroelectric plant on the Mississippi River.27 The state's biomass resources include landfill gas and agricultural biodigester facilities, as well as Iowa's one operational wood pellet plant, which processes urban wood waste. A second pellet plant designed to process crop residues has been proposed.28,29 The number of sunny days and solar power potential increases from east to west across Iowa.30 Only a small amount of solar photovoltaic electricity is generated in the state, almost all from distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) facilities.31

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 from renewable energy production facilities approved by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB).32 Capacity from eligible renewable resources has exceeded the RPS goals. By the end of 2017, Iowa had about 7,150 megawatts of capacity from renewable resources at utility-scale facilities.33

In 2008, the IUB, at the direction of the state legislature, also 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. The utilities could increase efficiency and reduce consumption with improved infrastructure or through customer programs.34 In addition to energy efficiency standards, the Iowa Mandatory Utility Green Power Option requires all electric utilities operating in the state, including those not rate-regulated by the IUB, to offer renewable-sourced power options to their customers.35

Electricity

Five of Iowa's six largest power plants by generating capacity are coal-fired, and coal is the primary fuel used for electricity generation in the state.36 However, coal's contribution has declined as wind's share has grown. As recently as 2008, coal accounted for more than 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. During the same period, wind-powered generation, now the state's second-largest source, grew from less than one-tenth of Iowa's net generation to more than one-third of state generation.37 Iowa's only nuclear power plant, Duane Arnold, is smaller than all but one other operating nuclear power plant in the nation.38 Nuclear power provides nearly one-tenth of the state's net electricity generation. Natural gas-fired power plants contribute slightly more than 6% of the state's net generation. Small amounts of electricity from hydroelectric, biomass, and solar sources account for most of the rest of the state's power generation.39 Since 2008, Iowa has generated more electricity each year than the state has consumed.40 Almost half of all retail electricity sales in Iowa go to the industrial sector, and Iowa's retail electricity rates across all sectors are among the lowest one-fourth of states.41 About one in five Iowa households use electricity for home heating.42

Petroleum

Iowa is not a petroleum-producing state.43 Of the more than 100 exploration wells drilled in the state, only a handful ever produced oil. Those wells are no longer producing, and their combined production was less than 500 barrels of crude oil.44,45 However, new exploratory wells are planned in the southwestern part of the state.46 Iowa does not have any oil refineries and relies on pipelines to bring in petroleum products from other states.47 More than 11,000 miles of petroleum product pipelines cross the state.48 Iowa ranks fourth among the states in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) consumption. About three-fourths of the LPG is consumed by the state's industrial sector, where propane is used by farmers to dry their corn after harvest rises in wet years.49,50 More than one in eight Iowa households heat with propane, making the residential sector's consumption almost triple the national average.51,52

More than one in eight Iowa households heat with propane, making the residential sector’s consumption almost triple the national average.

Nearly half of the petroleum consumed in Iowa is used as motor gasoline.53 The use of conventional motor gasoline without ethanol is allowed statewide in Iowa.54 However, the state has one-fourth of the nation's total ethanol production capacity, and most of the motor gasoline sold in Iowa is blended with at least 10% ethanol.55,56 More than 250 fueling stations in Iowa dispense E-85 motor gasoline (85% ethanol blended with 15% motor gasoline).57

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 of the mines supplied the coal needed to run the railroads that reached Iowa in the 1860s.58,59 Today, there are no active coal mines in Iowa, but the state still has more than 1.1 billion tons of estimated recoverable coal reserves, located primarily in south-central Iowa.60,61 There are additional coal resources at greater depth in southwestern Iowa.62 The resource potential of that coal and any associated coalbed methane is unknown.63

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 Wyoming and other states for industrial, commercial, and institutional users.64,65 Iowa consumes more coal for electricity generation than 29 other states. In 2016, that level of consumption made Iowa the nation's 12th largest per capita consumer of coal for power generation.66,67,68

Natural gas

Iowa does not have any natural gas reserves or production, but the state is crossed by several interstate natural gas pipeline systems and has four natural gas storage fields that together account for about 3% of U.S. storage capacity.69,70,71 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.72,73 More than four-fifths of the natural gas entering Iowa continues on to markets in the Midwest and beyond.74

Natural gas provides one-fifth of the total energy consumed in Iowa.75 About three-fifths 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. Most of the rest is used in the commercial sector, but about 6% of the natural gas consumed in Iowa is used for electric power generation.76,77

Endnotes

1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Climatic Data Center, Climate of Iowa, accessed February 1, 2018.
2 National Agriculture in the Classroom, A Look at Iowa Agriculture, updated July 2017.
3 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, Ethanol Facilities Nameplate Capacity and Operating Production Ranked by State, updated January 11, 2018.
4 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Wind Energy in Iowa, accessed February 2, 2018.
5 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Climatic Data Center, Climate of Iowa, accessed February 1, 2018.
6 Current Results, Days of Sunshine per Year in Iowa, accessed February 2, 2018.
7 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Geospatial Data Science, Solar Maps, U.S. State Solar Resource Maps, Iowa, accessed February 2, 2018.
8 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Annual Coal Report 2016 (November 2017), Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2016.
9 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Reserves, accessed February 2, 2018.
10 U.S. EIA, Rankings: Total Energy Consumed per Capita, 2015 (million Btu), accessed February 2, 2018.
11 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
12 Iowa Area Development Group, Target Industries, accessed February 2, 2018.
13 Iowa State University, Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations, Manufacturing in Iowa (July 2015), p. 1.
14 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, GDP & Personal Income, Regional Data, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in current dollars, All Industries and Manufacturing, All areas, 2016.
15 Iowa State University, Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations, Manufacturing in Iowa (July 2015), p. 4.
16 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, GDP & Personal Income, Regional Data, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in current dollars, All Industries and Manufacturing, Iowa, 2015.
17 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
18 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, Ethanol Facilities Nameplate Capacity and Operating Production Ranked by State, updated January 11, 2018.
19 "U.S. Ethanol Plant List, All Platforms, Existing," Ethanol Producer Magazine, updated January 24, 2018.
20 "USA Plants, Operational," Biodiesel Magazine, updated December 13, 2017. .
21 U.S. EIA, Monthly Biodiesel Production Report (January 2018), Table 4, Biodiesel producers and production capacity by state, November 2017.
22 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2018), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.14.B, 1.15.B, 1.17.B.
23 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2018), Tables 1.3.B, 1.14.B.
24 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Wind Energy in Iowa, accessed February 10, 2018.
25 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Overview, Wind Power Plant Map Layer, accessed February 10, 2018.
26 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2018), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.14.B, 1.15.B, 1.17.B.
27 Martin, Kent, "Keokuk Energy Center: Harnessing the Power of the Mississippi," Hydropower.com (November 7, 2013).
28 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data, 2016 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
29 "U.S. Pellet Plants, operational and proposed," Biomass Magazine, updated May 17, 2017.
30 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Direct Normal Solar Resource of Iowa (April 4, 2017).
31 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2018), Table 1.17.B.
32 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Iowa Alternative Energy Law, updated December 9, 2016.
33 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2018), Table 6.2.A.
34 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Iowa Energy Efficiency Standard, updated December 9, 2016.
35 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Iowa Mandatory Utility Green Power Option, updated January 29, 2016.
36 U.S. EIA, Iowa Electricity Profile 2016, Tables 2A, Ten largest plants by capacity, 2016.
37 U.S. EIA, Iowa Electricity Profile 2016, Table 5, Electric power industry generation by primary energy source, 1990 through 2016.
38 World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power in the USA, Appendix 1: U.S. Operating Nuclear Reactors, updated April 2017.
39 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2018), 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.
40 U.S. EIA, Iowa Electricity Profile 2016, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2016.
41 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2018), Tables 5.4.B, 5.6.B.
42 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Iowa, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
43 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Supply and Distribution, accessed February 4, 2018.
44 Anderson, Raymond R., Oil Exploration in Iowa, adapted from Iowa Geology 1992, No. 17, Centennial Edition, Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
45 McKay, Robert M., Mineral Resource Facts, accessed February 4, 2018.
46 "Wildcats planned for southwest Iowa," Oil and Gas Journal (June 14, 2017).
47 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Total Number of Operable Refineries as of January 1, 2012-17.
48 U.S. Department of Energy, State of Iowa Energy Sector Risk Profile, p. 4, accessed February 4, 2018.
49 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).
50 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F12, Liquefied Petroleum Gases Consumption Estimates, 2015.
51 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Iowa, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
52 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Consumption and Expenditures, Energy Source Used for Home Heating (share of households), accessed February 4, 2018.
53 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C2, Energy Consumption Estimates for Major Energy Sources in Physical Units, 2015.
54 Gardner, K. W., U.S. Gasoline Requirements, American Petroleum Institute (June 2015).
55 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, Ethanol Facilities Nameplate Capacity and Operating Production Ranked by State, updated January 11, 2018.
56 Hardy, Kevin, "Why Iowans will likely see more E15 and E85 gas at the pump soon," Des Moines Register (June 5, 2017).
57 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Alternative Fueling Station Locator, Ethanol (E85), Iowa, accessed February 5, 2018.
58 Hoehnle, Peter, "Types of Business and Industry," Iowa Pathways, accessed February 7, 2018.
59 Iowa Pathways, "Coal Mining Towns," accessed February 3, 2017.
60 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2016 (November 2017), Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2016 and 2015.
61 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2016 (November 2017), Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2016.
62 Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Coal Mines, accessed February 7, 2018.
63 McKay, Robert M., Mineral Resource Facts, accessed February 7, 2018.
64 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2016 (November 2017), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2016.
65 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2016 (November 2017), Iowa, Table DS-14, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2016.
66 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2016 (November 2017), Table 26, U.S. Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, Census Division, and State, 2016 and 2015.
67 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Energy Indicators, accessed February 7, 2018.
68 U.S. Census Bureau, Data, State Population Totals and Components of Change: 2010-2017, Table 1, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017.
69 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Data, Reserves, accessed February 7, 2018.
70 U.S. EIA, Iowa Profile Overview, Natural Gas Inter/Intrastate Pipeline Map Layer, accessed February 7, 2018.
71 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Number of Existing Fields, 2011-16 and Total Storage Capacity, Annual, 2011-16.
72 U.S. EIA, About U.S. Natural Gas Pipelines, Natural Gas Pipelines in the Midwest Region, accessed February 7, 2018.
73 U.S. EIA, About U.S. Natural Gas Pipelines, Natural Gas Pipelines in the Central Region, accessed February 7, 2018.
74 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Iowa, 2011-16.
75 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C1, Energy Consumption Overview: Estimates by Energy Source and End-Use Sector, 2015.
76 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Iowa, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
77 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Iowa, Annual, 2011-16.