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Customers not happy with Alliant Energy rate hikes

CEDAR RAPIDS – Alliant Energy’s push for wind power represents a shift to green energy, but it’s one big reason the utility is seeking a hefty rate hike this week.

The Iowa Utility Board probably won’t rule on Interstate Power & Light’s 13 percent rate hike request until next year.

But the Alliant Energy subsidiary is already collecting much of the money on an interim basis. Since March 20th, the average Alliant electric bill in Iowa has been about $101 a month.

If Alliant gets its request, that would mean an additional $150 million dollars a year. Ratepayers aren’t happy, but they’re not sure they can do much about it. For one Cedar Rapids non-profit, the electric rate hike is a double whammy.

At the Masonic Library, new boilers replaced a downtown steam heat system lost to flooding in 2008. This system more than doubled heating bills to nearly $25,000 a year. And the new boilers run on electricity…so Alliant’s rate hike will mean an increase on an increase this winter.

“If I thought it would do good…I’d write a letter to the Iowa utilities board, but I’m not sure what it would accomplish.”

Alliant company officials say the increase is justified based on what the company is forced to spend to produce power. A good portion of the higher rates will recover the cost of this huge wind farm in Franklin County. Another portion goes to environmental controls and the higher costs of transmitting electricity. But the company expects even more for improvements at this 6th Street Generating station that was destroyed by flooding in 2008.

“When we put investments into any facilities we put investments in first and over a period of years, that investment is recovered,” said Scott Drzycimski of Alliant Energy.

So Alliant is telling the utility board even though this power station will never reopen, the company should collect on what was invested earlier.

The average customer may not understand the details…but they do understand they’re paying more for power.

“I thought it was due to the air conditioning because it was so hot this year…I bet it’s come up more than 50 bucks a month compared to last year,” said Alliant customer Trend Mamer.

Some customers also complained they thought Alliant just received a rate hike. And that’s true…an earlier case was settled with a final order last January. But that’s how the process works, a proposed rate hike is requested, the company can collect part of the amount beforehand and the state utility board eventually makes a final ruling.