The Iowa Utility Board (IUB) last week approved a $127 million rate increase for Alliant Energy retail electric customers.
Alliant had originally sought a $203.6 million increase but in October, the utility provider was one of several parties to agree to the lesser rate increase in a partial settlement with the IUB.
The city of Decorah was part of “The Decorah Area Group,” consisting of the city of Decorah, Luther College, Winneshiek Medical Center, Aase Haugen Senior Services and Winneshiek Energy District, that filed opposition to the increase. Several other area communities also contested the rate hike.
“On behalf of the citizens of Decorah, we are grateful for the work of the Decorah Area Group and their testimony in the Alliant rate case before the Iowa Utilities Board. While the ultimate goal for our citizens and the community was a lesser increase in utility rates, we do appreciate the IUB’s support of the structured settlement to a lesser amount,” Decorah Mayor Lorraine Borowski and City Manager Chad Bird said in a joint statement.
“The IUB’s response and comments to Alliant’s activities during the municipal referendum in 2018 means we are hopeful Alliant will be more willing to work with city officials in sharing information about their infrastructure and business practices in the future. The city looks forward to working with Alliant in the future,” Borowski and Bird said.
In 2018, Decorah residents voted down a citizen effort to establish a municipal electric utility by three votes.

‘Powerful’
The Board’s final ruling in the Alliant rate case was a powerful statement on the value of community partnership and leadership, according to Andy Johnson, director of the Winneshiek Energy District.
“The Decorah Area Group was cited over 100 times in the final ruling, and DAG’s testimony was critical to a number of key rulings,” he said.
“The final rate increase of over 15 percent for residential and large general service customers, and nearly 11 percent for most business, is still way too high, especially in context of the 2018 rate hike and another likely in 2021. But the combined testimony of intervenors did reduce the total increase roughly 38 percent from the company’s original proposal, saving Decorah area customers roughly $1 million per year. We also successfully protected solar customers both large and small from major discriminatory fees, keeping at least another quarter million in the pockets of local solar owners every year, and keeping the door open for growing solar ownership,” Johnson said.
The Board’s ruling also kept the door open on municipalization, he said.
“Though only a small part of the Decorah Area Group’s testimony, the Board took this history very seriously, and stated ‘The lack of transparency and misrepresentation in the Decorah municipalization vote is of significant concern to the Board.’ The Board chastised Alliant for ‘withholding from and not providing to the citizens of Decorah accurate information about anticipated rate increases,’ and declared they will require Alliant ‘to submit a plan to ensure that information presented to the communities considering any anticipated [utility] rate changes is accurate and current.’ ”

‘Pleased’
Alliant Energy spokesman Justin Foss said the IUB’s decision is encouraging for future Alliant initiatives.
“We are pleased the IUB approved our settlement agreement, which was supported by a wide coalition of stakeholders. This decision will allow us to continue to provide safe and reliable service to customers. This decision also allows us to continue to promote clean energy and deliver the environmental and financial benefits to customers and communities,” Foss said.
“The IUB’s order supports the work we’ve done to collaborate with customers. In 2020, we expect customers will see an enhanced effort to bring them along in the process of powering tomorrow.
“With this decision, we are very excited to move forward with our new renewable energy programs and options for customers. One of the new options includes a community solar program. We expect to start taking applications for this program in Iowa early in 2020 and we could start building the new solar garden for the program later in 2020,” Foss said.