One of the key steps remaining in the approval process for the proposed new coal-fired electric plant in Marshalltown has been rescheduled from Monday (October 6) to December first. Iowa Utilities Board spokesman, Rob Hillesland, says the rate hearing is being delayed.

Hillesland says the primary reason for the delay is to allow more time for review of the documents in the case. He says scheduling conflicts are another factor for the delay. Alliant Energy’s Iowa Power and Light subsidiary wants to build the plant, and the rate case helps set the groundwork for the rates and costs of the plant.

Hillesland says in this case that includes a setting a rate of return on equity, setting a depreciable life of the plant, and a ceiling on construction costs for any future rate case, if the company seeks a rate increase in the future.

Hillesland says the rate case is a standard procedure for new plants. He says it gives the company a clearer perspective of what the costs may be for the plant, and what costs the company will pay and what costs the customers will pay in rates. The rate hearing is relatively new — as it was part of a bill passed by the legislature in 2001.

Hillesland says prior to the law, a lot of these factors weren’t considered until after the plant was on-line and the company came in and looked at them. Now he says several of these factors are looked at in advance.

The utilities board now expects to make a decision on the rate case during the first quarter of 2009. The board approved the site application for the plant in August, and the rate case must be approved before the plant could move forward.