DES MOINES — The Iowa Utilities Board has approved a rate increase by Alliant Energy, but the split decision did not allow the company’s full increase and had sharp criticisms for the company.
Under the terms of the IUB order, the annual review increase was reduced to $127 million, significantly lower than the $203 million increase sought in Alliant’s original filing.
Both the majority and the dissent heavily criticized Alliant for failing to manage its relationship with customers. The number of customers with monthly payment agreements for past due accounts grew from 1,416 in March 2016 to 76,000 in March 2019. The IUB pointed to a report by the Office of Consumer Advocate that noted mounting complaints about customer care and billing, advanced metering, and a decline in customer satisfaction evaluations that has continued since 2015.
The OCA concluded the company has not focused on the effects of rate hikes on customers and urged the IUB to limit its rate increases “at or near the lower level in the range of reasonable [increases].”
One assessment referenced in the IUB report said the burden for customers making less than $25,000 annually is more than 40 percent higher than similar customers served by MidAmerican Energy.
Alliant’s base rate has increased by nearly 200 percent since 2009.
One issue in particular came in for harsh criticism. Both the majority of the IUB and the dissent pointed to the company’s actions during a campaign in “the Decorah municipalization campaign,” in which voters there decided whether to create a municipal utility.
The IUB accused the company of “withholding from and not providing to the citizens of Decorah accurate information about anticipated rate increases.” It called the “lack of transparency and misrepresentation in the Decorah municipalization vote [a] significant concern to the Board.”
The dissenting board member went further, saying the election’s outcome “most certainly would have been different” had residents had accurate information about the company’s plans for further rate increases.
The IUB’s decision requires a refund of $7.5 million for customers who paid interim rates set by Alliant.