Alliant Energy is launching a test to see if an entire town will lower its energy usage if the utility promises a big check for local charities. Alliant has promised to give over three-hundred-thousand dollars to three community groups in Dubuque if the electric bills in Dubuque decline by about a half a percent in 2005. Karmen Wilhelm, a spokesperson for Alliant, says the company is always looking for ways to educate customers about energy efficiency, and about a year ago they started kicking around the idea of a community-wide energy consumption challenge rather than targeting their energy conservation mesage to individuals. Dubuque is one of three Iowa communities where Alliant is launching its “E-Community” initiative. Wilhelm says the energy conservation goal of about half a percent is doable. Dubuque will have appliance recycling days, and residents will be encouraged to install more energy-efficient appliances. In larger institutions, like schools, there’ll be efforts to replace lightbulbs with the newfangled bulbs that use less electricity. Wilhelm says heating and lighting account for most of the energy used in a home. “Lighting is a perfect example of how a consumer can really control their energy usage,” Wilhelm says. If just 35 percent of Dubuque households replaced five incandescent lightbulbs with compact flourescent bulbs that use less electricity, Dubuque would reach Alliant’s goal of reducing energy usage by half a percent in 2005. Grinnell is another one of Alliant’s “E-Communities” where the utility will make a sizable charitable donation if the electric bills in Grinnell decline by a set amount next year. That amount has yet to be determined, according to Wilhelm, who says her company is also in negotiations with a soon-to-be-disclosed small town in Iowa for a similar effort. Alliant will offer residents in Dubuque, Grinnell and that unnamed small town rebates if they buy better windows for their home, or a more energy efficient furnace. “With the appliances, we will actually come and pick it up and pay that customer a rebate check for recycling it and replacing it with a more efficient model,” she says. A community group in Grinnell is meeting to come up with an energy reduction goal for 2005.