Dear Editor:

Alliant Energy has been less than truthful to Decorah and continues to be so as it spins numbers to support its request to the Iowa Utilities Board to raise residential utility rates 25 percent.

Almost one year ago today, Alliant was flooding our community with advertising that a municipal electric utility would equal higher rates. They sent a postcard showing an empty wallet suggesting a municipal electric company would cost you more. At the same time Alliant was using your money to fight against your best interest: it was organizing a petition to the Iowa Utilities Board for a double-digit rate hike; a fact it failed to mention in its feasibility study or ads.

Tonight, May 2, we Decorahians have another chance to have our voices heard. This time it is not about our own public utility. It is about exercising our rights as consumers in a monopoly-type situation.

A 25 percent rate increase is crushing to families with tight budgets.  Increasing costs make it harder and harder for families to make ends meet. The situation is even worse for families living on fixed incomes. In addition to families, this proposed rate hike hurts rural economies. New businesses who may want to invest in our community can save money by setting up shop in communities that don’t have Alliant Energy’s high-energy price tag. Non-profit institutions like our hospitals, schools, and daycare centers already have struggling budgets and the proposed rate hike just adds more pressure to our foundational institutions that provide necessary services in rural areas.

Alliant Energy is a monopoly. There is no competition to drive down prices and the only protection we have as consumers is to make our concerns known to the Iowa Utilities Board.

Consider the following: in 2017 during Alliant Energy’s last rate increase it indicated to the Iowa Utilities Board that it would be expecting to continue to ask for rate increases from the IUB every two years. Sure enough here they are in 2019 asking for a 25 percent increase. I wonder what they will ask for in 2021? 30 percent, 40 percent or more?

If we compare Alliant’s record on spending ratepayer dollars to MidAmerican Energy, the other Iowa based investor-owned utility, we can see that Alliant has made a series of poor business decisions that have cost us as ratepayers dearly. Back in 2007, Alliant sold their transmission lines to ITC and now we, as ratepayers, have a dual charge on our bill, one for transmission and one for distribution. This year, Alliant is raising its rates, and soon enough, ITC will also raise its rates (transmission costs are going up all over the country). Therefore, our bills will increase both for distribution and transmission.

Back in 2013 under new wind production tax credits, MidAmerican Energy Company invested heavily in wind while Alliant refused. At this time, Mid-American Energy now has a renewable energy portfolio four times more aggressive than Alliant and it did not lean on its customers to pay for it. In fact, Mid-American is working towards a 100 percent renewable portfolio and has not yet asked for a rate increase from its customers. Mid-American customers pay 50 percent less than we do. This gap will only widen with Alliant’s expected future rate increases.

While Alliant seems to have very little regard for its customers, it certainly keeps shareholders in mind. Alliant’s shareholders profits have soared. Alliant Energy returns to its shareholders have not only been outperforming the S&P 500, but it’s returns have also out performed  EEI investor owned utilities.

On May 2 (today), 6 p.m. at the Hotel Winneshiek, the Iowa Utilities Board will be here to listen to the customers of Alliant Energy. Please let your voice be heard. If you’re on a fixed income or struggling to make ends meet, if you are a new business owner wanting to invest in our community, but realize your dollars may be better spent in a town with Mid-American as your energy provider, if you’re like me and you believe in transparency and fairness and that monopolies must be held accountable in order to have both thriving families and economies, or if you are a concerned customer, concerned about yourself or your neighbors, then please show up on May 2 and let your voices be heard.

We may not be able to stop a rate increase, but we can certainly do our best to keep it from  being so high. We can hold Alliant accountable to be a better steward with the hard-earned money we pay them, and we can certainly let the Iowa Utilities Board know we are not amused by Alliant’s business practices that line the pockets of their investors on the backs of its customers. We are not amused by a company that with one hand turns our town into a political battleground using thousands of dollars to launch a campaign of half-truths and misinformation, while with the other it raises our rates and lobbies to destroy our rights as ratepayers.

Don’t let this multibillion dollar company continue to play us off against one another. We cannot let a monopoly go after our hard-earned money, unchecked. 

Emily Neal
Assistant Director, Center for Sustainable Communities Leadership and Engagement