Iowa town vote on forming muni from Alliant too close to call

Source: By Robert Walton, Utility Dive • Posted: Friday, May 4, 2018

  • An Iowa town held a vote Tuesday on whether or not to pursue municipalization, but the results are too close to call as just four ballots separate the two sides. There are still 15 absentee ballots outstanding.
  • Supporters of the effort, dubbed Decorah Power, want to develop more renewable energy in the town — an issue where many feel Alliant Energy has not stepped up.
  • The municipalization process can be arduous. An effort in Boulder, Colo., has been dragging on for years as the city fights to separate from Xcel Energy.

A final vote tally is expected May 7, but as of now the tally is 1384 in favor of forming a municipal utility, and 1,380 against. A vote in favor would continue to advance the issue, while voting against the measure could set the effort back years.

Alliant-owned Interstate Power & Light, which operates in Iowa, announced last month it had received approval from state regulators to increase its wind expansion program, and plans to add 1 GW of new renewable resources in the state. But Energy News Network reports the muni push has been brewing for years because of the utility’s “persistent refusal to support efforts to develop renewable generation in town.”

Decorah Power won approval from the Decorah City Council, raised funds and commissioned a feasibility study from NewGen Strategies and Solutions to examine the issue. The group said the study concluded that municipalization “was most certainly worth pursuing,” and could save the community $5 million annually.

Municipalization efforts often face strong opposition from utilities who do not want to lose customers.  The city of Boulder filed its first application in 2015, proposing to transfer assets from Xcel to allow the city to serve customers outside the incorporated lines. Regulators blocked that plan and the debate continues today.