WISCONSINREPORT.COM (05/11/2009) - Wisconsin Power and Light Company (WPL), a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corporation, has filed a request with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) to adjust its retail electric and natural gas rates, effective January 1, 2010. The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) has grave concerns for the ratepayers. CUB says many families are already having a hard time paying their utility bills.
WPL is requesting to increase retail electric rates by $85.5 million (9.2 percent) and increase natural gas service rates by $6.2 million (2.6 percent), when compared to current rates. The impact of the proposed change in rates will vary depending on customer class.
“With the worst economy since World War Two, Alliant’s request to raise electricity rates by over 9 percent will make it difficult for many families to pay their monthly expenses,” said Charlie Higley, CUB executive director.
The WPL/Alliant request seeks to recover costs of operating the electric and natural gas utility systems. Such cost recovery has been severely reduced by a material reduction in sales and increased costs.
Among the increased costs are those associated with providing utility service and investments related to maintaining a safe and reliable electric and gas infrastructure, enhancing renewable energy resources, promoting environmental stewardship via environmental control projects and providing additional energy-efficiency initiatives and options for customers.
WPL’s increased electric costs have been partially offset by recent decreases in electric fuel costs.
“Recognizing the challenging economic situation for our customers, we made the decision to not increase our rates during 2009; however, an increase is needed in 2010 to maintain a reliable electric and gas system and stay financially strong to allow us to provide ongoing utility services,” said Barbara J. Swan, President-WPL.
“We are dedicated to controlling our operational costs and have taken many steps to do so, while at the same time realizing that we are obligated to serve and need to recover our fixed costs and lay the groundwork for the future in terms of environmental, energy efficiency and renewable investments," Swan said.
“We know that even though our investments to maintain quality service benefit our customers over the long run, there is also an impact on their monthly bills," Swan continued. "We understand that our customers face difficult financial choices in the midst of this economic downturn."
"We encourage our customers to take advantage of the number of programs Focus on Energy and our company offer to help customers manage their energy costs,” Swan said.
Alliant Energy is currently putting together specific data on how the rate case filing will impact all customer classes - residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural - a process known as “rate design”.
The rate design information will be filed with the PSCW by June 1st and the average monthly dollar impact on customers will be available at that time. The actual amount may vary depending on the outcome of the pending case and associated rate designs approved by the Commission.
The approval process for the base rate case is expected to take approximately seven months, resulting in new rates becoming effective on or about January 1, 2010. The electric and gas rate request is based on forecasted costs for 2010. All rate changes must be approved by the PSCW after a thorough review of the data and after obtaining input from the public.
CUB points out that Wisconsin Power & Light, a utility subsidiary of Alliant Energy, has steadily increased electricity rates by nearly 75 percent for the period 1998 through 2008, while inflation has only increased by 32 percent, and Wisconsin household incomes have barely kept pace with inflation.
CUB fears, with electricity rates rising more quickly than household incomes, energy bills consume more of a household’s monthly budget, making it more difficult for families to meet monthly expenses.
The Public Service Commission will review Alliant’s rate hike request during the summer and fall, and will likely issue a decision by the end of 2009. CUB will intervene in the proceeding on behalf of residential customers and look for ways to reduce the size of the increase.