Iowa Utility Board hosts hearing on proposed Alliant rate increases

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Dr. Tim Swinton of Marshalltown speaks at the Iowa Utility Board-sponsored public customer comment meeting on the Marshalltown Community College campus in Marshalltown Tuesday. The meeting was held in response to Alliant Energy’s proposed increases to customer’s retail electric and natural gas rates.

Alliant Energy representatives made a case to the Iowa Utilities Board as to why they should be allowed to raise customer’s electric and natural gas rates. And the dozens of customers, ranging from Ames to Eldora to Marshalltown, who turned out Tuesday at Marshalltown Community College’s Dejardin Hall were interested in sharing their perspectives as well.

The amount of increase in electric and gas rates Alliant receives, if any, will be determined by the utility board. The Iowa Utility Board is hosting a number of meetings around the state for customer input.

To justify the rate increases, Alliant representatives cited significant investments in wind and grid technologies it claims advance clean energy and services. Additionally, it has cited significant investments in infrastructure such as the Marshalltown Generating Station.

Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer led off the public comment, thanking the company for its investment of $645 million in the state-of-the art, natural gas-fired MGS which went online April 1, 2017. It provides electricity to 500,000 homes and businesses. The company claims it emits less than half the carbon dioxide, about two-thirds less nitrogen and roughly 99 percent less sulfur and mercury than traditional coal-fired generation.

The project was the largest economic development project ever in Marshall County, and also one of the largest ever in Central Iowa. Greer was also effusive in his praise of Alliant employees who worked diligently following the July 19, 2018 tornado to re-install electric and natural gas service to thousands of Alliant customers impacted by the EF-3 storm.

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Pictured is an aerial view of Alliant Energy’s Marshalltown Generating Station which went online April 1, 2017.

Greer was followed by Randy Tucker, speaking on behalf of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who worked at the Marshalltown Generating Station. He was also effusive in praising the company for providing a safe environment, good wages and benefits during the course of its construction.

“I want to commend Alliant for building a gas-fired generating plant, instead of coal,” he said. “People who live in communities where energy is provided by coal plants, on the average, become sick more often than those where energy is provided by gas-fired facilities.”

Several customers who followed praised the company overall for good service, but cited the proposed increase of 25 percent above base rates as excessive.

The impact to a customer’s bill will vary by customer type and usage, according to a company press release issued before Tuesday’s hearing. A typical residential customer with a monthly electric bill of $116 will see a total increase of approximately $8 per month starting April 1, 2019. And, if approved, residential customers would see an additional increase of $12 per month starting Jan. 1, 2020.

Other speakers urged the Iowa Utility Board to freeze Alliant’s electric and natural gas rates. They claimed the proposed increases were excessive and unwarranted.

Julie Roe, a small business owner from Eldora, told the audience that Alliant understands their request will be negotiated, and believes the company could well do with less than its 25 percent above base rate asking.

Additional information is available on the IUB website at https://iub.iowa.gov/press-release/2019-03-01/public-meetings-set-alliants-proposed-electric-natural-gas-rate-increases

Customers may also file comments online https://iub.iowa.gov/online-services/open-docket-comment-form.

Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublcian.com