News

Alliant proposes rate hikes to electricity, natural gas

Alliant Energy announced this week it plans to increase electric and natural gas base rates 25 percent for residential customers effective Jan. 1, 2020.

The utility also announced that it will implement a 5.5 percent interim increase for electricity effective April 1 of this year.

Electricity

Alliant filed its proposal to increase rates March 1 with the Iowa Utilities Board. A customer’s base rate accounts for about 71 percent of their electric bill. The base rate covers capital costs, operation and maintenance costs and taxes. The remaining 29 percent goes toward fuel and state-mandated energy-efficiency programs.

As an example, Alliant’s website states that a customer with a monthly electric bill of $116 would see their bill rise $8 per month starting April 1. If the IUB approves Alliant’s proposed increase, that customer’s bill would rise another $12 per month in 2020, for a total of $136 per month.

In a news release, Alliant said the increases are necessary to recover the cost of various investments in things like wind energy and smart meters. It said expansions in wind energy will deliver fuel cost savings since wind has no fuel cost.

“Wind energy additions will also lower emissions, while driving significant economic benefits to local communities through property taxes to communities and lease payments to landowners,” Alliant stated on its website.

Alliant’s website states that smart meters will make it easier to detect and respond to outages, and provide customers with more information about their usage.

Natural gas

Alliant said a typical natural gas customer paid $65 per month in 2018. Due to lower energy efficiency costs and the low cost of natural gas, that same customer is expected to pay $54 per month in 2019. If Alliant’s request to increase natural gas base rates by 25 percent is approved, that customer’s bill figures to rise to $61 per month in 2020.

Base rates account for 44 percent of a residential customer’s bill. Just like with electricity, base rates for natural gas cover capital, operations and maintenance costs. The other 56 percent is the cost of the gas itself plus state-mandated energy-efficiency costs.

The utility said the increase to its base rate is needed to cover preventative maintenance of gas lines to ensure they are reliable, and to cover the cost of smart meters to remotely read gas meters and monitor the delivery of natural gas.

Smart meters

Included in Alliant’s rate increase request is a proposed charge of $15 per month for customers who choose to opt-out of smart meters. The IUB ruled in February that Alliant’s earlier request to impose a $15 monthly charge on opt-out customers was invalid because it was not part of a “rate” proposal specifically. This time, the opt-out fee is part of a rate proposal.

Customer feedback

Customers have the right to file a written objection to the proposed increase with the IUB and request a public hearing. All comments are a matter of public record.

Members of the public can comment online by going to efs.iowa.gov; sending an email to customer@iub.iowa.gov; or sending a letter addressed to the Iowa Utilities Board at 1375 E. Court Ave. in Des Moines, IA 50319-0069.

The IUB will host a series of customer comment meetings throughout Alliant’s service area. A comment meeting is an opportunity to provide feedback directly to the IUB and other parties involved in the rate case, such as the Office of Consumer Advocate, which represents the public interest in rate cases before the board.

The nearest comment meeting for Jefferson County residents is in Ottumwa on Wednesday, May 8. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Bridge View Center at 102 Church St. The next closest is West Burlington on Wednesday, May 22. That meeting starts at 11:30 a.m. at Southeastern Community College, Building 300, 1500 W. Agency Road.

The other locations and dates are Creston (April 11), Marshalltown (April 23), Storm Lake (May 1), Mason City (May 2), Decorah (May 2), Clinton (May 22), Dubuque (May 23) and Cedar Rapids (May 23).

Customers with questions about the rate increase proposal may contact Interstate Power and Light Company, Alliant’s electric and natural gas utility in Iowa, at 1-800-255-4268 (which spells 1-800-ALLIANT), or at iowarates@alliantenergy.com.