Since his election in 2006, Gov. Chet Culver, D-Iowa, has been a key advocate for wind energy on the state and national scene. However, in November, Culver lost his bid for re-election to Terry Branstad, the former four-term governor of Iowa.
During his tenure, Culver not only helped bring about the creation of more than 3 GW of installed capacity – Iowa ranks second in the U.S. – but he is also widely credited with luring supply-chain participants and turbine manufacturers, such as Siemens, to the state.
As he prepares to leave, Culver recently spoke with NAW about his legacy, the future of Iowa wind and the importance of continuing the fight for renewable energy policy.
‘I have no regrets whatsoever. In 2006, I ran on a renewable energy platform as my signature policy,’ he said, citing the 40 wind projects built in Iowa during his tenure. ‘With more than 200 companies from 26 counties now supplying the wind industry, including nine manufacturers, I think we've achieved our goal of becoming a national leader.’
However, there is now some uncertainty surrounding the future of the Iowa Power Fund, an incentive that some say has been instrumental in bolstering the state's economy. During the gubernatorial campaign, Branstad said he would eliminate the fund.
‘I'm hopeful that the people of Iowa can convince him otherwise,’ Culver says, adding that Branstad was reconsidering the campaign promise. Several calls to Branstad's transition team requesting comment were not returned.
Culver's departure also leaves a massive void for wind energy advocacy on a federal level, including his work on the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition, a consortium of 26 governors formed to address the issues of job creation and cost-effective carbon emissions reductions.
As chairman of the coalition, Culver and other U.S. governors raised – for the first time – key issues needed for the wide-scale integration of wind across state lines, such as transmission and cost-allocation. And last week, Culver traveled to Washington to meet with congressional legislators, urging them to pass legislation friendly to renewable energy.
‘I'll keep fighting,’ Culver said, emphasizing the fact that there is a tremendous opportunity now to get legislation, such as the renewable electricity standard, passed.
Culver is urging wind energy participants to mobilize and send a message to legislators.
‘If our leaders are serious about creating jobs and working toward energy independence, then this is the best opportunity,’ he said. ‘We've shown what's possible in Iowa. This is how to ensure economic recovery.’
Within the wind industry, Culver has been known for his tenacity. He attributes his toughness to his football-playing days at Virginia Tech, where as a freshman on the scout team, he blocked near 300-pounder (and future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) Bruce Smith.
‘After that experience,’ he quips, ‘fear is not in my vocabulary.’
For the near term, Culver will focus on completing the five weeks he has remaining as Iowa governor. After that, he will begin weighing his options. He wants to stay involved with either a wind energy company or a public interest group, adding that he would rather focus his energy on the task at hand rather than dwelling on the November defeat.
‘There's not a lot of time to waste here,’ he said. ‘The new Congress and state legislature arrives in office in January.’
Photo courtesy of the Office of Gov. Chet Culver