Sierra Club: Demonstrates partial support for Alliant Energy settlement

Madison, WI – Today, Alliant Energy announced a settlement with Sierra Club, Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, Citizens Utility Board, Clean Wisconsin, RENEW Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Paper Council, regarding the utility’s 2021 rate case. Sierra Club and Clean Wisconsin supported the utility’s proposed revenue requirement, but did not support its proposed rate design, as a result of which they are only signaling its support of the proposed revenue requirement. Sierra Club continues to advocate for improvements to Alliant Energy’s rate design. 

“We have been pleased to see Alliant Energy’s commitment to retiring its coal plants and replacing them with clean energy. This transition is vital to preventing the worst of the climate crisis, protecting our air and water, and will save customers money in the long run. However, high customer charges in Wisconsin continue to penalize customers who use less energy, including those who have invested in energy efficiency and clean energy. Utilities like Alliant need to prioritize changes in their rate structures,” said Sierra Club – Wisconsin Chapter Director Elizabeth Ward. 

Alliant Energy’s proposed settlement establishes rates through the end of 2023, and among other issues sets a modified long-term rate treatment for the retiring Edgewater 5 coal-burning generating station, which will shield Alliant’s customers from unreasonable rate impacts as it transitions to clean replacement generation and starts recovering for its investments in two sets of solar projects that will collectively bring nearly 1100 MW of sustainable generation to Wisconsin ratepayers. The proposed settlement also continues some improvements to existing (but not yet widely adopted) customer programs that enable certain customers to pursue energy pricing options that work with and reward their individual efficiency measures and customer-owned generation; and it includes a Sierra Club-encouraged proposal to apply late-fee revenues to forgive outstanding debts of some of the utility’s customers facing the highest energy burdens. The settlement does not include any reduction of Alliant’s $15/month customer charge, which is among the highest monthly fixed charges in the nation.

“As an Alliant customer, I have been so excited to see their growing commitment to clean energy and to retiring fossil fuels. But it has been disappointing to see them avoid making meaningful changes to its rates,” said Alliant Customer Meghan Pierce. “As someone who cares about climate change and as a housing case manager, I have seen how hard the current rates are on those with low incomes. It feels disheartening to be charged some of the highest fixed fees in the country — regardless of how much power we are actually using.”

Sierra Club calls on Alliant Energy to modernize its rate design by decreasing its fixed fees, continuing to expand low income support programs such as Focus on Energy, and offering on-bill financing to support customer clean energy improvements.

“Alliant Energy’s settlement largely retains the current inequitable rate structures – including maintaining high fixed fees. Fixed fees disincentivize energy efficiency and customer-owned clean energy and disproportionately harms low income Wisconsinites and low-energy users,” said Don Ferber, Sierra Club – Beyond Coal Volunteer. “Ensuring equity in their rate structures must be a priority.”