The Iowa Utilities Board signed off on a rate increase Alliant Energy had for 10 months sought for retail electric customers.
In October, the utility provider was one of several parties to agree to a lesser $127 million rate increase, in a partial settlement with the board. The order raises the fixed monthly residential customer charge from $11.50 to $13 and $19 to $20 for general service customers.
The rate changes will take effect after the utilities board approves compliance tariffs Alliant must submit within 20 days, showing the approved revenue increases, by customer class, as a percentage of total revenues and base rate revenues.
Alliant applied for an approximately $203.6 million increase in electric rates.
Also among the effects of the board’s decision:
• A $7.5 million refund for customers who paid Alliant’s interim rates, which went into effect in April and hiked the average $116 monthly electric bill for a typical residential customer by approximately $8.
• A $4.06 monthly fee stipulated for customers who decline to use an advanced metering infrastructure, or AMI, meter, also known as a “smart” meter.
• A renewable energy rider approved as a line item on customers’ bills so Alliant can recover costs of wind energy projects going into service this year. According to Alliant, this line item will delay its need to pursue a rate increase in 2021.
Also in the Thursday decision from the board was a new regulatory principle that a utility provider’s return on equity cannot be higher on interim rates than it is for proposed final rates.
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Alliant’s return on equity for under the recent settlement will be 9.5 percent — meaning any future interim rate increases cannot exceed this figure.
In a Thursday news release, the Iowa Utilities Board indicated Alliant “did not meet the expected standard of conduct for a regulated monopoly.”
The board cited written customer concerns over Alliant’s management practices, its disapproval of the provider’s implementation of AMI technology and a “lack of transparency and misrepresentation” during a 2018 municipalization vote in Decorah.
As a result, Alliant must file a comprehensive improvement plan over the next 90 days, showing opportunities to improve its internal processes and correcting any deficiencies it finds.
The board also approved a settlement in which Alliant will take part in an analysis to assess the economics of its coal plants.
“Alliant’s planning process is a critical step in setting the path for the company to move off expensive, dirty coal plants towards cheaper, clean energy,” said Elizabeth Katt Reinders with the Sierra Club. “We look forward to working with Alliant to begin relieving Iowa of its coal dependence and make the state a true clean energy leader.”
“The IUB’s order supports the work we’ve done to collaborate with customers,” Alliant spokesman Justin Foss said in an email Thursday. “In 2020, we expect customers will see an enhanced effort to bring them along in the process of powering tomorrow.
“With this decision, we are very excited to move forward with our new renewable energy programs and options for customers. One of the new options includes a community solar program. We expect to start taking applications for this program in Iowa early in 2020 — and we could start building the new solar garden for the program later in 2020.”
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