Alliant Rate Increase … and What You Can Do About It
Andy Johnson, Director
Wait, what did you say, Alliant rates are going up? I thought they just promised us (during the debate around a municipal electric utility) that their rates would rise veeeery sloooowly for at least 20 years?
We’ve heard many variants of this reaction in recent weeks, some with much more colorful language. If it weren’t so serious, we would be tempted to think the company had a sense of humor, and was playing us an April Fools joke.
Unfortunately, it’s no laughing matter. We’ll explain the basics below, and the formal intervention we’re planning in the Docket at the Iowa Utilities Board. Voice your concerns directly through these two venues:
- Attend the Customer Comment Meeting hosted by the Iowa Utilities Board at the Hotel Winneshiek, Thursday May 2nd, at 6pm, and share your perspective with Board members
- Email the Board your objections or requests, to email@example.com
So what’s really happening? Because Alliant Energy is an investor-owned, rate-regulated utility in Iowa (along with MidAmerican Energy and Black Hills Energy), they are not allowed to change rates unilaterally. Rather, they must file their request at the Iowa Utilities Board, which then opens a docket and hears evidence from the utility, the Office of Consumer Advocate, and other interested parties.
Winneshiek Energy District was a formal “intervenor” in the 2017 rate case, when rates were raised by an overall 7.8%. We submitted extensive testimony against the proposed fixed charge increase (which was reduced from the original proposal), and also against the creation of a separate rate class for distributed generation (solar) customers and potentially discriminatory charges and fees (which so far has not come about).
Early in 2019, Alliant Energy filed a rate request with the Utilities Board to raise base rates 24.45% for residential customers, 18.36% for general service customers, and 25.29% for large general service customers. The current docket is RPU-2019-0001, and filings can be found on the IUB web site at https://efs.iowa.gov/efs/ShowDocketSummary.do?docketNumber=RPU-2019-0001. .
Winneshiek Energy District intends to intervene in the current docket, and may do so together with other area entities. Our concerns are broad, and include
- Enough is enough. The 2017 rate increase of nearly 8% increased energy costs to Decorah and Winneshiek County ratepayers by over a million dollars every year, and the proposed increase could suck another $2-3 million from the local economy annually.
- Alliant already has the highest rates in the state compared to MidAmerican and even compared to municipal electric utilities and rural electric cooperatives on average and by rate class, which is an increasing burden to businesses and significant hindrance to economic development in Alliant communities.
- The proposed increase is a tremendous burden on low-income and fixed income households, and is especially unjust in light of the fact that Alliant posted over $400 million in profits in 2017, and has returned over 18% annualized return to shareholders over the last five years.
- During the 2018 debate over a municipal electric utility, Alliant told Decorah customers they expected to raise rates no more than 1%/year for at least 20 years … yet the current proposed increase was certainly in the company’s planning process at that time.
- At the same time that Alliant is draining every-large amounts from customers and communities through rate increases, they are reducing opportunities for savings and for keeping wealth local, by slashing the energy efficiency programs in half and working to reduce the economic viability of customer-owned solar.
The current rate case docket will include multiple rounds of written testimony this summer, followed by a hearing in Des Moines in the fall, and a ruling by the Utilities Board by the end of the year. We will do our best to keep our membership, partners and community informed as the case proceeds.
Meanwhile, as we mentioned at the beginning of this piece, you can make your voice heard right now by attending the IUB “Customer Comment Meeting” on May 2, at 6pm at the Hotel Winneshiek. Encourage your friends and colleagues to attend. You can also email the IUB at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may have seen the “notice of proposed electric rate increase”, which the Utilities Board requires Alliant to send to all customers at the beginning of a rate docket. As stated on the notice:
“You have the right to file a written objection to this proposed increase with the Utilities Board and to request a public hearing. … The Utilities Board should be provided with any facts that would assist it in determining the justness and reasonableness of this requested increase. … Comments may be filed at any time while the case is pending.”
We hope to see you at the customer comment meeting on Thursday, May 2nd, at the Hotel Winneshiek. Remember, the meeting is hosted by the Utilities Board, not Alliant Energy, and is there for you to clearly speak your piece on the “justness and reasonableness” of the requested increase.