Back Print

Ask Mr. Answer Person: Questions about a recent Alliant Energy mailing

Posted: Sat, Apr 14, 2018 3:55 PM

(Emily has e-mailed several 'Ask Mr. Answer Person' questions.  We will take them one at a time: "I just received a Postcard from Alliant Energy about their commitment to renewable energy.  It's very curious to me, as they are responsible for lobbying the Iowa Legislature to end the energy efficiency program in the state as we know it.")

Mr. Answer Person says: "Senate File 2311 is still being considered by the Iowa Legislature and debated by many Iowans.  It would lower the percentage of a bill that utility companies can charge customers for energy efficiency programs from five percent now to two percent for electric utilities and 1.5 percent for natural gas utilities.  As Emily notes, Alliant Energy is on record in support of the legislation, which would end the program as we know it, although not overall."
("I noted on page 29 of Alliant Energy's
on-line 2017 Sustainability Report that they are only currently purchasing 3 percent from wind energy. ")

Mr. Answer Person says: "Alliant Energy in Iowa gets roughly half of the electricity it distributes from its own power plants and buys the other half from outside sources.  The chart on page 29 is based on combined sources of energy generated at its own plants and electricity purchased from other power plants.  3.84 of Alliant Iowa's electricity comes from its own wind generation and another 3.87 percent from wind generated electricity it purchases.  That means 7.71 percent of the total electricity it sells comes from wind.  That might not be an outstanding figure, but it's more than double the 3.0 figure you mention."

("In addition, according to page 4 of their report, they will only have 29 percent renewables by 2024, this seems to be a far cry from the 40 percent claim by 2021 that they tout on their postcard.  Seems like a bit of false advertising on their part. Isn't there some law about truth in advertising?")

Mr. Answer Person says: "We forwarded your question to Alliant Energy spokesperson Mike Wagner, who replied:

("The answer to your question is the difference between capacity and energy.  An easy analogy to understand it is to look your car. One gauge tells you how many miles you can get out of a tank of gas, the other measures your miles per gallon.

Capacity is like looking at how many miles you have in a tank. We've measured the potential output of all of our generating stations. The numbers your reader references measure the potential output of all of our facilities based on their fuel source.

Energy is like looking at your miles per gallon. It is an important measurement because a number of factors determine how we operate our generating stations to provide power at any given time. For instance fuel prices for one type of generating station might mean that we'd rely more heavily on other types of generation.

The number in the mailer is saying that by 2021, our Iowa customers could get up to 40 percent of their power from renewable energy sources.")

Unfortunately, I didn't take a class in electrical engineering during college, so I'm going to be of no value in refereeing this issue.  In short, it's possible that both Alliant's claim of some customers getting 40 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2021 and the Iowa Utility Board filing that Alliant will have 29 percent of power generated by 2024 from renewable sources could be true.

My degree in college was in political science.  I learned that having a law about truth in political advertising would be a good idea--but don't hold your breath!"