CEDAR RAPIDS — Sentiments expressed at a public meeting Thursday over Alliant Energy’s proposed rate hikes ranged from support to confusion over the need for a $20-a-month rate increases to frustration that regulators might simply rubber-stamp the utility’s request.
While some of the more than 75 people who attended Thursday night’s meeting at Kirkwood Community College spoke in favor of Alliant, citing the company’s economic impact on the state, more than two dozen people spoke against proposed increases to the utility’s electricity and natural gas rates.
“I’m at my wit’s end. My question to the utilities board is, ‘What are you going to do with customers who can’t pay their light bill?’ Is the state going to issue candles or a wood stove?” asked Chuck Panzer of Solon. “I would request that the board say no to the increase.”
Representatives with Alliant, the Iowa Utilities Board and Office of Consumer Advocate, a division of the Iowa Department of Justice, hosted the meeting to hear comments and answer questions. It was the last in a series of meetings around the state to gather public input.
The three-member appointed Iowa Utilities Board, which will make the final decision, also will hold public hearings on the utility’s electric and natural gas rate increases in October and November, respectively.
An interim electric rate increase — of about $8 per month for a typical residential customer — already went into effect last month. If the interim increase is found to be unreasonable, it could be subject to refunds.
Under Alliant’s proposal, residential base rates would rise by about 24.5 percent for electricity and 25 percent for gas. Commercial base rates would go up about 18.4 percent for electricity and 14 percent for gas.
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The base rate accounts for about two-thirds of an average customer’s monthly electric bill and about 44 percent of an average natural gas bill.
Alliant officials have said the increases are necessary to cover the costs of infrastructure upgrades, including the statewide application of advanced metering infrastructure or “smart meters,” and the company’s growing portfolio of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Officials have said those upgrades are expected to result in a savings on the other components of a customer’s bill, including energy efficiencies and fuel costs.
“The total impact of your bill will be less than the 25 percent base rate increase shown in your notice,” said Anne Lenzen, Alliant’s director of regulatory affairs.
Alliant officials have estimated the increases will cost a typical residential customer about $20 more a month — or $240 more a year.
All told, the proposed rates — which are planned to take effect next year — would increase Alliant’s annual electric revenue by more than $203 million and natural gas revenue by $21 million.
State Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt, D-Cedar Rapids, expressed concern for the financial impact of such an increase on residents.
“There’s a very large frustration out there among a lot of the constituents and citizens of Iowa that I have met and spoken to on this issue,” Running-Marquardt said. “I want to challenge the IUB, please make this your finest hour. Let this be the vote where you say no. Please put Iowans before the profit of Alliant on this one.”
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Most who spoke in favor of Alliant or the utility’s proposal Thursday noted the energy provider’s economic impact on communities and renewable energy projects.
“I think we ought to have some faith that Alliant Energy and the utility board will come up with a business decision here that will benefit the company and benefit the community and customers,” said Bill Gerhard, president of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council.
Comments still can be made online at iub.gov.
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