DES MOINES — As the public hearing on Alliant Energy’s request looms, the company is saying it has a partial settlement agreement for a lower increase than requested. The announcement by Alliant said the increases for Iowa customers will be lower, but did not reveal a figure for the new rate.

Alliant initially proposed a rate increase of around 25 percent for Iowa customers, a level that sparked considerable opposition. Numerous cities and counties, including Wapello County and Ottumwa, formally protested the increase. Public opposition was also vocal.

Iowa’s Office of Consumer Advocate’s filing in the case last month sharply questioned whether Alliant had given “proper consideration to customer impacts” in its decisions:

“The Board should not consider this rate case in isolation. For the past ten years the Board has struggled to deal with the IPL’s [Alliant Energy] inadequate commitment to customer interests. This rate case has implications for the future as well. Much of the investment for which IPL seeks recovery in this case represents a mere down payment on IPL’s long-term plan to make extensive unjustified investment in its grid. The customer affordability issues at issue in this case will only get worse if the Board does not act now to impose long-overdue restraint on IPL and its runaway spending. IPL’s customers need relief and count on the Board to protect their interests.”

The OCA filing also said Alliant’s test for interim and final rates was inconsistent with Iowa law, and that the grid modernization pushed by the company is not beneficial to customers.

A public hearing on the proposal in Ottumwa last May drew about 150 people, virtually all of whom opposed the increase. Farmers raised concerns about the effect of the hike on their operations, while residential customers said too many people are already struggling to pay their bills.

The Iowa Utilities Board has final say on any rate hikes. Its hearing on the proposed increase is set for 9 a.m. Oct. 7 and 8 a.m. on Oct. 8-9 at the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, according to the IUB website.

A separate hearing on Alliant’s proposal to raise natural gas rates is scheduled for Nov. 4-5 in Des Moines.

Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

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