Alliant says it’s trying to mitigate cost spikes for Marshall County customers

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO In a photo provided by Alliant Energy, a Marshalltown crew member works to restore power following the Aug. 10, 2020 derecho. The company said it is working to help customers mitigate any spike in natural gas bills this winter.

Cold weather season is approaching for the state of Iowa and people in Marshall County, and residents will soon be turning on the furnaces and using heat.

Natural gas bills, however, have been a hot topic this week, thanks in part to an announcement made by MidAmerican Energy. The company admitted that rising natural gas prices will impact the natural gas bills of their customers this fall and winter.

“We’re not seeing signs of supply challenges this winter, but we do expect to see higher customer bills because of higher commodity prices,” MidAmerican Vice President of Market Operations and Supply Peggi Allenback said. “We don’t mark up what we pay for natural gas, (but) rather the cost of the commodity is a straight pass-through to customers. We purchase a portion of gas in advance at the best possible price, and in warmer months, when gas is generally cheaper, we store it for use in winter to help protect our customers financially. Despite these efforts, though, we want our customers to understand that natural gas bills will still be higher this heating season.”

Alliant Energy, the main provider for electricity and gas in Marshall County, has not released any statement about its gas bill prices for the fall and winter seasons in response, but according to the company’s Manager of External Communications, Cindy Tomlinson, there are plenty of ways in which Alliant is trying to mitigate these challenges.

Every year, Tomlinson said, Alliant tries to get word out to its customers about ways they can save money on natural gas and heat. This year is no different.

“While it’s difficult to anticipate what the exact impact of the market shift will be,” Tomlinson said. “We’re focusing on helping our customers do things that could mitigate at least some of the possible spikes. There’s so many variables that go into that, so we’re really focusing on helping our customers understand the things they can do.”

Some of these cost mitigations are simple, like closing the blinds when it gets dark out and keeping an eye on their thermostat setting. But others require more effort and can be easily missed, she said. These measures include sealing windows and doors, which Tomlinson said could go a long way in helping stabilize costs. Alliant also purchases natural gas during the summer (when prices for natural gas are generally lower) and stores it in an attempt to help keep costs down for the consumer in winter months.

Tomlinson said Alliant is also committed to helping out customers in financial need, whether it be through payment plans that can be fitted to the customer’s needs or by directing them toward local initiatives.

“We encourage our customers to call us if they need to set up a payment plan or as soon as they recognize they’re struggling to pay their bills,” Tomlinson said. “Because we are going to work with them.”

In Marshall County, the Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) group is the best place for members of the community to find information about the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. LIHEAP is a federal program which helps low-income families by providing a one-time payment to the utilities company to meet heating costs. Although there are guidelines to qualify for this grant, it is provided as a tool for low-income families to help get spending in order over winter months.

According to the Mid-Iowa Community Action group’s website, residents in counties under the umbrella — including Marshall and Tama — who meet the federal income guidelines necessary are eligible for the grant. The Marshall County Family Development location is at 6 S. 2nd St. In Marshalltown and is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Residents of a household over 60 years old can apply for the grant as of Oct. 1, while those under 60 can begin applying Nov. 1 all the way until April 30. There are application packets at the MICA website available to download, and residents can also apply online.

For more information on the program from MICA, call 641-753-5523 or email energy.assistance@micaonline.org.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today