Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2018

Alliant asks to increase base rates

Proposal goes to Iowa Utilities Board for approval
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | May 03, 2018

Alliant Energy has announced an increase in its base rate for natural gas, and another proposed rate increase that could take effect next year.

The utility sent its Iowa customers a mailer this week informing them of its plan to increase residential base rates about 6 percent effective May 14. That is just an interim rate increase. Alliant has filed a request with the Iowa Utilities Board to increase rates a total of 13.57 percent for residential customers. Company executives expect the IUB to rule on that request by early 2019.

Utilities such as Alliant do not need IUB approval to alter the charge for natural gas itself, since the price of gas varies from week to week. They do, however, need IUB approval to change base rates, and that is what Alliant seeks to do now.


Investing in Fairfield

Alliant’s vice president of operations Terry Kouba said the utility’s base rate in Iowa has not changed since 2013. In that time, the utility has undertaken projects costing millions of dollars. John Boston, Alliant’s director of engineering, said that includes $750,000 invested in Fairfield alone.

“When the city wants to do something different with a sewer line, we need to move our gas pipeline out of the way,” Boston said.

So far in 2018, Alliant spent $80,000 moving pipes on Adams Avenue, and spent $73,000 on that same road the year before. In 2016, when the city was rebuilding Maple Street, Alliant spent $200,000 on rerouting gas lines.

Alliant has 220,000 customers in Iowa and maintains 5,000 miles of pipelines. Kouba said keeping those lines in working order and building new ones is an expensive proposition. The company listed in its mailer three main reasons it’s requesting a bump to base rates:

1) Invest to enhance reliability and enable efficient safety-related inspections

2) Replace older materials with more durable, longer-lasting ones to improve safety

3) To pay for projects that expand service


Falling gas prices

Kouba said energy customers have been fortunate lately because the price of natural gas has fallen, and that’s been reflected in lower utility bills.

“In 2012, the typical residential customer’s gas bill was $66,” he said. “Currently, it’s $52. Not many things we buy drop in price. As natural gas prices trend down, we pass those savings onto customers automatically.”

If the base rate increase is approved, Kouba said the average customer’s bill will rise to $60.

Kouba said lower energy bills are also a result of customers using less energy thanks to Alliant’s programs that defray the cost of energy-efficient appliances and smart thermostats.


Public feedback

Alliant will hold meetings with the public where residents can ask questions about the proposed increase. The one for Fairfield is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. June 21 at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.

Residents can also reach Alliant by calling 1-866-2554268 (which spells “ALLIANT”).

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