Iowa environmental groups say proposed Alliant rate hike is uneconomical


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Two Iowa environmental non-profits are concerned about proposed cost increases for Alliant Energy customers(via flickr).

Julia Poska | September 11, 2019

The Iowa Environmental Council and Environmental Law and Policy Center last month submitted testimony  from five “expert witnesses” to the Iowa Utilities Board regarding Alliant Energy’s proposed base rate increases, currently under review.

The environmental groups disapprove of the proposal overall and said they believe they have identified alternative “solutions that will save customers money while cleaning up Alliant’s generation mix.”

Below are summaries of Alliant’s proposal and the environmental groups’ critique.

About Alliant’s proposal

On April 1, 2019, Alliant customers began seeing an interim base rate increase (about $8 for the typical residential customer) on their energy bills.

The company plans to further raise the rate beginning January 1, 2020. The total increase of $20 (24.45%) for typical  residential customers would bring about $203.6 million in revenue into the company annually.

In a proposal to customers, Alliant said the company is “investing in new wind farms, energy grid technologies including advanced metering infrastructure, and environmental controls that reduce emissions.”

The company has also said that the additional cost to customers would be offset over time by reductions in other costs like energy efficiency.

 The proposed increases are awaiting a hearing in November from the Iowa Utility Board. If the increases are not approved, Alliant would have to refund customers for excess paid during the interim increase. 

The IEC/ELPC perspective 

The IEC and ELPC have both economic and socioeconomic concerns about the proposal, as outlined in their testimony to the IUB. The testimony also provided economic analysis of the utility’s current coal power generation. 

A few highlights from the testimony include:

  1. Coal generation costs more than renewables. An analysis by Rocky Mountain Institute Principal Uday Varadarajan on behalf of the two organizations found that the cost of Alliant’s coal generation exceeds that of projected renewable energy costs. Retiring three Alliant coal plants and purchasing market energy or purchasing or generating wind energy could save customers $16 million in 2020, he found.  This was proposed as an alternative move for Alliant to make, increasing renewables while reducing rather than increasing cost to consumers. (Read more from U.S. Energy News).
  2. Revenue would be spent on wasteful initiatives. The groups call out one initiative Alliant has proposed — putting power lines underground — as a poor use of consumer funds.
  3. Proposed solar programs could undermine the industry. The groups believe Alliant’s new community solar program (implied to be funded in part by the rate increase) would compete with solar businesses and potentially create a monopoly. They said the proposal also includes measures similar to those proposed in the “Sunshine Tax” legislation earlier this year to increase cost for solar customers.

 

 

Midwest school buses go electric


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Four states are using VW settlement money to replace old school buses with modern electric ones (flickr). 

Julia Poska | November 23, 2018

Four midwestern states have secured a total of $20,000 in funding for fully electric school buses and charging stations, funded through settlements with Volkswagen over a 2015 scandal.

Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan set aside $11, $3, $2.75 and $3 million respectively. The states learned about the importance of decreasing children’s exposure to harmful diesel exhaust fumes during the Environmental Law and Policy Center’s four-state electric schools tour.

School buses are a particularly good candidate for electrification because they idle in front of school buildings for significant periods of time before and after school, releasing a high concentration of emissions in those areas full of children. According to The Lion Electric Company, one maker of such buses, converting one traditional bus to electric keeps 23 tons of greenhouse gases out of the air.

At about $300,000 each,  an electric school bus costs about three times more than a traditional diesel one, according to the ELPC, but savings on diesel and maintenance can total about $12,000 annually. Still, these funds will only provide buses to a few districts in each state.

Court orders EPA to assess fertilizer runoff pollution in U.S. waterways


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Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video; Flickr

Environmental advocates in states along the Mississippi River have won a round toward a long-term goal of having federal standards created to regulate farmland runoff and other pollution blamed for the oxygen-depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico and problems in other bodies of water. Continue reading

Iowa Environmental Council Petitions the State for New Water Standards


Photo by sabbath927; Flickr

On Tuesday, the Iowa Environmental Council filed a petition with the Iowa Environmental Commission to fight against farm runoff and sewage waste that run into lakes. These contaminants have been linked to increasing numbers of health risks. Continue reading

Report: Solar investment would yield thousands of jobs in Iowa


 

Source: Iowa Policy Project report

Iowa could create thousands of new jobs and economic benefits by incentivizing the development of solar power, according to a new report from the Iowa Policy Project, in collaboration with Environment Iowa, Environmental Law and Policy Center and The Vote Solar Initiative. Continue reading

Report: Wind Industry has broad reach in Iowa economy


A new report from the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based environmental advocacy organization, shows just how much the wind industry impacts Iowa’s economy. It reaches more than 80 local business and provides 2,300 manufacturing jobs, which likely leads the nation, the report states.

With over 25,000 wind turbines at 80 sites, about 20% of the power Iowa generates comes from wind. Continue reading