Iowa’s Consumer Advocate has responded to a request by Alliant Energy’s Interstate Power and Light subsidiary to raise electric rates by $162-million  by asking the Iowa Utilities Board to instead lower I-P-L’s rates by $1.8 million. Acting consumer advocate, Jennifer Easler, says her office doesn’t believe the rate increase is justified.

Easler says there are many issues in the case, with a couple of the big issues being transmission costs and “weather normalization.” Easler says the information her office has gathered doesn’t show the need for what would be a 13.8%electric rate increase.

“When Interstate sold their transmission assets a few years ago, there were some assurances made in conjunction with that, that Iowa rate payers would be held harmless for a number of years,” Easler says, “that has not turned out to be the case, and I-P-L has sought rate increases driven in part by higher transmission costs.” She says the “weather normalization” issue also caught their attention.

Easler says regulated rates are based on a test year, but she says the 2009 year had a summer that was abnormally cool, and they made some adjustment for that. Easler says there’s a lot of information on both sides and the Utilities Board will have to sort out which side makes the best case.

“You know the company is trying to make their case for a rate increase, and we’ve rebutted it with other recommendations, so there is you know, a large difference between the two sides,” Easler says. Alliant filed for the increase on March 10th and was given a temporary rate increase of 10% until the board makes its decision on the permanent rate request.

The Utilities Board will hold a hearing on the rate increase on September 20th and a decision is expected by January. Interstate serves electric customers in 650 Iowa communities. You can see more about the case on the Iowa Utilities Board website at: