REGIONAL—Alliant Energy customers will notice an increase on their gas and electricity bills starting in April.
The utility provider will increase its rates starting April 1 and rates will likely jump again early in 2020. The average customer will see an increase of about $8 per month per service during the intermediary rate increase. Another proposed increase of about $12 will come next year if approved by the Iowa Utilities Board.
One of the purposes for the increase is to invest in clean energy, namely a $1.8 billion wind energy expansion.
Alliant plans to put two wind farms into service this month: The English Farms Wind Farm in Poweshiek County and the Upland Prairie Wind Farm in Clay and Dickinson counties.
There are three more wind farms that are under construction and expected to go online sometime in 2020: Whispering Willow North Wind Farm in Franklin County; Golden Plains Wind Farm in Kossuth and Winnebago counties; and Richland Wind Farm in Sac County.
Alliant Energy sent a notice to customers notifying them that rates will increase by 25 percent for gas and electricity as is required by the Iowa Utility Board.
“That’s where it gets a little confusing,” said Alliant Energy spokesperson Mike Wagner. “We present the rate increase from the view of how the rate increase affects your overall bill. This time they (the Iowa Utilities Board) wanted it to be just the part that’s going up, which falls into this stuff called ‘base rate.’”
Wagner said the base rate of the bill will increase, but there will be areas of customers’ bills that will decrease, such as fuel costs. Since more wind energy is being used, less fuel will be needed and fuel costs will lower.
“We have changed our energy efficiency programs so the cost to each customer will go down. We’ve done work with our transmission providers; those transmission costs will go down,” he said. “When we put the final number together we look for a number that pays for our investment in projects and not a cent more.”
Wagner said that as fuel usage continues to drop, so will customers’ bills.
“If we continue to put wind energy into service, that lowers our overall cost for our customers because we’re not needing to buy fuel,” he said. “By adding wind energy we’re expecting to save customers $25 million in fuel savings in 2019 and $60 million in 2020.”
Alliant Energy serves 83 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Ashton, George, Little Rock, Melvin, Ocheyedan Okoboji and Sibley are the N’West Iowa communities served. The company is headquartered in Madison, WI. Wisconsin will not experience this rate increase because the increase is meant to fund projects in Iowa only.
The average monthly electric bill in Iowa was $102.55, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Iowans spent an average of $8.93 per square foot on natural gas in 2018.
The next step in the Iowa Utility Board’s process will be allowing for and reviewing requests for intervention. The board is holding several customer comment meetings across the state, with the nearest one being in Storm Lake on May 1.
“All comments made at the public comment meetings are part of the permanent record in this rate request case,” said IUB communications manager Don Tormey. “The IUB will review all the comments or objections made in the record before issuing its decision.”
“The obligation of the Iowa Utilities Board under Iowa law is to ensure the charge made by any public utility — for any service rendered — shall be reasonable and just,” Tormey added.