In Iowa, grassroots energy districts aim to spur local clean energy conversations

In Iowa, grassroots energy districts aim to spur local clean energy conversations

The concept is modeled on soil and water conservation districts that spread across the country in the 1930s.
A decade ago, Craig Mosher was one of a half-dozen people trying to rethink energy in their small hometown of Decorah in northeast Iowa.

“The general concern was climate change, but the specific concern was energy, and what we could do to reduce energy use and to shift to renewables,” Mosher recalled about the group’s early meetings at Luther College, a Lutheran school with a heavy environmental emphasis.

Their solution? To create an “energy district,” an entity modeled after the soil and water conservation districts of the 1930s, but with a focus on energy.

In the 10 years since the founding of the Winneshiek Energy District in Decorah, energy districts have become a movement in Iowa.

The vision, the scale and the resources have grown substantially. Mosher now lives in Iowa City and has led the development of an energy district in this college burg 10 times the size of Decorah.

Efforts also are under way in Des Moines, which brings to eight the number of districts now operating or under development in Iowa.

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