July 18, 2024

Customers comment about Alliant services, rates

Work continues on the construction of a solar power farm east of Creston. The project is part of Alliant Energy's renewable energy plan. Alliant has requested a rate increase for electric and gas. If approved, new rates will begin in October 2024.

A handful of comments were given Wednesday during a public hearing for Interstate Power and Light Company’s proposed rate increases which, if approved, will begin in October 2024.

Commonly known as Alliant Energy, it is requesting with the Iowa Utilities Board an increase in electric service revenue of $284 million which is about a 16% increase in existing electric revenues. Alliant is also asking for $14 million more in gas revenue which is 5% more in their gas revenues.

Alliant is wanting to continue to move power lines from overhead to underground to decrease the number of outages and length of outages. Over the last decade, Alliant Energy has placed more lines underground and the frequency of outages and duration of outages have decreased approximately 30%. More than 20% of the company’s lines in Iowa are underground.

Alliant is also wanting to improve its infrastructure to strengthen its energy system, including expanding the company’s fiber network to ensure reliable communications during emergencies.

Alliant Energy’s plans include adding 400 megawatts of solar in the state and extending the life of the wind energy the company owns and operates in Franklin County. Alliant has a solar power project in the works in Union County.

Alliant filed the requests Oct. 12. A final decision by the IUB is typically made within 10 months of the filing date.

Wednesday’s meeting at Southwestern Community College Performing Arts Center is the third of three customer meetings as prior meetings were in Cedar Rapids and Clear Lake. A virtual meeting will be held at 6 p.m. today. For more information, go online to iub.iowa.gov.

The company is requesting a 7.7% (approximately $10 per month) increase to the average residential electric customer’s total bill beginning in October 2024 and a second phase increase of 5.7% (approximately $7 per month) to take effect beginning in October 2025. Including all electric customer classes, the proposal results in an approximately 9% increase to the average electric customer’s total bill in October 2024 and a second phase increase of approximately 7% beginning in October 2025.

For gas customers, the company is requesting a 5% increase (approximately $3 per month) to the average residential gas customer’s total bill in October 2024. The overall impact on customer bills will vary, depending on actual energy used and final rates approved by the IUB. If approved, changes will not take effect until October 2024.

Kevin Downey said there is no incentives for the customer from utility companies.

“On my bill, the highest price was the service charge, $12.96. I know that is not a lot. But the point I’m trying to make, when you put in the smart meters, it did away with meter readers, it did away with falling on the ice, liabilities, no dog bites. I understand that. It seems like we are not reaping from them benefits. You guys are,” he said.

Despite his comment, he said he has never had a problem with Alliant customer service.

Downey said he chose not to have a smart meter and was willing to accept a more expensive bill. According to Alliant, a smart meter and related system improvements detect outages faster and help provide customers with better service. Smart meters also collect meter readings remotely no longer requiring to send trucks to every customer’s property.

Downey also asked about Alliant’s advertising which he did not understand since Alliant and MidAmerican dominate utility providers in Iowa.

“Why would you have to advertise,” he said.

Vice President of Customer and Community Engagement Mary Furlinger said Alliant advertising projects are not funded from customer revenue. She added advertising is Alliant’s way of explaining customer service and becoming part of the communities they serve. She referred to the company’s energy efficiency programs as the way customers can be incentivized.

Ron Riley, a former Union County Supervisor, explained his work with Alliant on the board about Alliant’s plan to build its solar power farm just east of Creston.

“I was very comfortable with Alliant,” he said about those meetings. But as an Alliant customer through his farming operation west of town, Riley said inflation prices for farmers must be considered for the proposed rate increase.

“Being a farmer, I can start with seed, fertilizer, chemicals, insurance, fuel, machinery, it’s all gone up a huge percentage,’ he said. “No one likes rate increases, but I think we all understand that as business, that is part of the deal.”

Creston Schools Superintendent Deron Stender said the school has worked with Alliant and he said they have been good with changes. “They have always been very supportive working with us,” he said.

Creston school is working with Alliant with a small-scale solar power project on school property that the school will financially benefit. Work is expected to begin in the spring.

“Nobody wants increases, but there are times when they are just necessary,” Stender said.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.