UI preparing to open up grant process to allocate funds from utility system public/private partnership

The University of Iowa is finalizing its timeline to have campus members submit proposals for grants to help with the university’s public/private partnership that was signed in December.


David Harmantas

Steam swirls around the UI Power Plant on the evening of Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

The University of Iowa will announce a timeline for a campus-wide initiative of proposals to support the university’s public/private partnership with a private entity to operate and maintain its utility system financially in a few weeks.

The UI said in a statement Thursday there are more details to come around campus members proposing a plan for a one-to-five-year grant that will push the university’s strategic plan forward. UI officials have said the allocation process will remain “open and transparent.”

After the state Board of Regents signed off on the $1.165 billion deal in December 2019 with ENGIE, a French energy conglomerate, and Meridiam, a Paris-based investment firm, the university financially closed on the partnership March 10. This step signaled the UI’s official transfer of utility-system management to ENGIE.

The UI will invest the net proceeds — around $999 million after paying utility system bond debt and consultant fees — into a new endowment where it will grow over 50 years to an estimated $3 billion.

From this process of doling out grants with the partnership endowment funds in fiscal 2021, the budget year beginning July 1, the UI plans to distribute $7.5 million of the partnership proceeds. Beginning fiscal 2022 and every year after, the UI expects to distribute $15 million annually from the endowment.

RELATED: Regents sign $1.1 billion UI Utility System public/private partnership

The UI will prioritize proposals that specifically grow the sustainability efforts of the strategic plan or have a separate funding source, the UI said in its Thursday statement. This campus-wide initiative will open once a timeline is established.

The university said in its statement it plans to use the funds from the public/private partnership to further the values outlined in its strategic plan — student success and engagement; research and discovery; and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on campus.

UI Vice President for External Relations Peter Matthes said at a Faculty Council meeting Jan. 29 that the UI administration will provide specific plans in regard to implementation of the ENGIE/Meridiam deal.

He said then that allocations will not be based on size of the UI’s colleges, but UI administrators were working to determine the “rules of the road” for the grant process by engaging with shared governance.

“The more transparent, open we can be about that … the more credibility we have with our constituents,” he said. “ … Not only the constituents on campus, but our constituents across the state our alumni, our students, our parents — all of these folks need to understand how we’re utilizing the university’s assets of the utility plant to receive these additional dollars, and then what are we doing with that in order to impact the future.”