Alliant Energy is once again coming to Iowa regulators requesting a significant rate increase that you, the Iowa customer, will ultimately cover.

The company is asking for this increase in the name of customer choice, system reliability and a move to cleaner energy sources. We agree with these basic goals but fundamentally disagree that Alliant’s proposal is the best way to get there.

The Iowa Environmental Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center instead propose a better framework to move us to a cost-effective clean energy future.


Stop using coal. Analysis by ELPC and IEC’s expert in this rate case showed that the operating costs of all of Alliant’s coal and gas plants are more expensive than purchasing renewables or market power. In fact, Alliant could save $16 million in one year alone by closing three coal plants, replacing that energy with wind or energy purchased on the open market.

Prices for wind and solar have dropped dramatically in the last decade, making renewable sources more economic than fossil fuels. The fuel costs nothing for wind and solar, and maintenance expenses are low, especially compared to coal and gas.

Simply put, fossil fuels are dirty, expensive and outdated, and it is time for Alliant to recognize that clean energy makes economic sense.

Encourage energy efficiency to reduce the utility’s costs of generating more energy. When demand for electricity increases, the utility has to build the generation and infrastructure to support it. Then we all pay more.

Alliant is proposing to increase the fixed part of every residential bill by 13%. High fixed charges mean customers have limited ability to lower their bills by reducing their usage. This discourages efficiency, hits the wallets of people who can least afford it and adds barriers to renewable adoption.

Alliant is also proposing a rate scheme that charges customers less when they use more — the type of pricing structure that actually encourages waste instead of curbing it.

Optimize grid Investments rather than waste money undergrounding lines. Alliant’s rate increase application includes a number of excessive and unnecessary spending proposals, including the extreme example to put every single one of its power lines underground.

Such a proposal has been rejected as too expensive and impractical by regulators every other place it has been considered. Eliminating this waste would save customers millions of dollars.

Strategically investing in the grid to get multiple benefits would save customers millions more.

Let customers be part of the solution. Customers want to construct solar on their homes and businesses, carrying the upfront costs and maintenance of these investments. Alliant should make it easy and attractive to do so. Customers can use renewables to control their own energy costs.

Plus, customer investments supply power at peak times when energy generation is most expensive, help avoid the need for more generation and, if sited strategically, can increase reliability and help delay or avoid grid upgrades.

Move boldly into our energy future. It’s time for Alliant officials to think bigger. If they are serious about their stated goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050, more development and deployment of renewables will be needed — and quickly.

The solutions are well within reach — wise investments in wind and solar that can start replacing coal immediately while saving customers money, rates that reward efficiency and options for customers to build solar and storage.

By engaging customers, rewarding them for controlling energy use and providing them opportunities to invest in clean energy, we can move toward a clean energy future in a way that is better for our environment and our pocketbooks.

Johannsen is energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, a statewide organization supporting clean energy and clean water. Mandelbaum is a senior attorney in the Des Moines office of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization.