Residents speak on proposed Alliant increase

Photo by Matt Milner/Ottumwa CourierLocals packed into a conference room at the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa to voice concerns over a proposed Alliant Energy rate increase.

OTTUMWA — Around 150 people packed into the conference rooms at Bridge View Center on Wednesday to have their say on Alliant Energy’s proposed rate increase.

The company filed with the Iowa Utilities Board for an increase of about 25 percent. The increase would raise base rates by about $20 for the average residential electrical customer, to more than $100 per month.

Base electrical rates account for 60 percent of the average electrical bill and 40 percent of the average gas bill. Alliant has already raised electrical rates using an interim increase allowed under Iowa law. If the rate the IUB decides to allow is lower, the company will owe the money back with interest.

David Alexander isn’t your usual customer. He’s a hog farmer, with several facilities that raise 20,000 pigs. Not all of those sites are within Alliant’s coverage area, but he’s still concerned.

“A 25 percent increase is a pretty substantial amount. I guess I think a 25 percent increase is excessive,” he said.

Janna Roster was concerned about the effect it would have on customers who are already struggling to make ends meet. The elderly, poor, and those with medical costs will be hard hit, she said.

“They were already having to choose between medicine and food,” she said. “Now, with the increase, they’re going to make the struggle so much more difficult.”

Rep. Mary Gaskill made a similar point by asking a question. She sought information on how many Alliant customers are already on budget billing and are still unable to pay the bill.

Members of the IUB, the Office of the Consumer Advocate, and Alliant Energy were all present for the session. The consumer advocate “will be undertaking an independent investigation of this rate case,” said Jennifer Easler. The office has objected to some prior increase requests, though the outcome on this one depends on the information it gathers this time.

Whatever the outcome, no resolution will happen prior to the IUB’s separate hearings on the electrical and natural gas requests. The hearing for the electrical rate increase will take place in October, while the hearing on the natural gas case takes place the next month.

Public comments can still be made through the IUB website.