Alliant Energy’s 463,000 electricity customers and 185,000 natural gas customers in the Badger State will see an increase of almost $8 a month in residential bills, effective January 1, under a preliminary approval (Docket No. 6680-UR-120) granted on November 17 by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC).
The commission approved an increase to the utility’s monthly fixed charge for residential customers – charges to cover the cost of poles and wires connecting customers to the electrical system – according to a report by local news radio WSAU.
Alliant officials say the fixed charge will increase gradually between now and 2018. The average residential customer will see his or her electric bills rise by about $4.39 a month by 2018; and gas bills will increase by around $3.47 a month, the broadcaster said. By 2018, fixed costs will nearly double, to $15 a month from the current $7.67 a month.
The residential increase is linked to the fact that Alliant is splitting off its residential customers into a separate category of customers distinct from farms and small businesses, Jeff Ripp, PSC administrator, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on November 18.
In reaction, business groups applauded the PSC for hearing the concerns of manufacturers that have been particularly vocal this year about the competitiveness of Wisconsin’s energy costs.
“I applaud the PSC for holding the line on rates,” said Jeff Landin, president of the Wisconsin Paper Council. “That is a welcome sign, as energy is one of the top costs for paper companies and Wisconsin’s manufacturing base.”
In its public comments on the case, RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison clean energy advocacy group, stated that the plan would penalize older residents, apartment dwellers, and energy-conscious customers. Executive Director Tyler Huebner testified that Wisconsin residents pay “dramatically” higher fixed charges than those in other states.
“Our testimony documented that the vast majority of state agencies nationally are either rejecting these fixed-charge hikes outright or granting much smaller increases, and only in Wisconsin are these fees being nearly doubled,” Huebner told the La Crosse Tribune.
Alliant said that this is the first time the utility will hike basic electric rates since 2010.