The state’s three big utilities — Alliant, Mid-American and the R.E.C.s –are lined up in favor of a bill which would allow Iowans to pick which company they want to provide their electric and gas service. Those utilities and businesses, like Deere and Company, have formed an “Iowans for Choice in Electricity” coalition which held a statehouse news conference this morning. Terry Harmon of Alliant Energy said his company “vigorously supports” the bill. David Levi of MidAmerican Energy said the safety and reliability of electric service shouldn’t be disrupted by the proposed changes. The state’s consumer advocate opposes the bill, saying it won’t bring lower utility bills for Iowans. Jerry Mc-Kimm of the Iowa Community Action Association disagrees. He says the bill gives low-income Iowans protections, like a moratorium on disconnections during the winter months and a fund to help low-income Iowans make energy efficiency improvements. Under the bill, the state Utilities Board would still regulate the transmission lines for electric and gas — and would let consumers choose NOT to participate in competition by retaining their current electric provider. RepresentativeJanet Metcalf, chair of the House Commerce Committee, says the bill puts an “Iowa stamp” on de-regulation rather than waiting for the federal regs to come. Metcalf’s committee will debate the bill on Friday.
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