Two things come together for me with this story - first, a way to address the long-term decline in public funding for universities and second, utilizing the public-private-partnership (P3) model to deliver win-win deals for everyone involved. I think we are significantly underutilizing the P3 model in the U.S. (it's much more common in other countries) and as we face ever-growing needs for new funding mechanisms particularly for infrastructure, we have to start getting more familiar with it and using it aggressively.
In this case, the University of Iowa is turning over the maintenance and management of its utilities (admittedly, not usually considered a core competency of higher ed institutions) to private-sector providers, but they are not turning it over completely. This is a key feature and what makes it a partnership - there is a joint governance model so the new organization isn't just about making money for shareholders. It also strives for joint goals like moving away from fossil fuels, while still providing a new revenue stream to the University.
This is what P3s at their best are all about. We shouldn't be having services provided just by either the public sector or the private sector. There is a joint partnership model that can work 'in between' that can generate great opportunities and accomplishments for all players.
President Richards charged the Regents and university leaders with maximizing existing resources and finding creative new funding sources during a discussion on resource management at the April 2018 Board meeting. This agreement is a prime example of generating much-needed resources from existing university assets.