Powering Through COVID-19, Together
With the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Alliant Energy and our 3,600 employees immediately began preparing for change. Guided by our Values – Live safety. Everyone. Always. Do the Right Thing. Care for others. and Act for tomorrow. – we began changing our work practices.
Focusing on the safety and well-being of employees, customers and the communities we serve, we activated our Crisis Management Team to lead us through the pandemic. By early February, employee travel was restricted. Within a few weeks, employees who could work from home began doing so. At the same time, our field and generation employees started maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet along with wearing gloves and face coverings when entering homes and businesses.
We suspended disconnections and waived late fees. Then, we began working closely with customers, the Iowa Utilities Board and Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) before we re-started honoring payment due dates. We proposed keeping rates steady in our rate filing with the PSCW and released deposits back to customers. At the same time, we encouraged customers to set up payment plans, based on their financial capabilities, using our new online My Account web site and mobile app. My Account also allows customers to discover new ways to monitor and manage their energy use.
We quickly reached out to our nonprofit partners to identify ways we could help the communities we serve. Almost immediately, we made donations to local food banks, the American Red Cross and United Way organizations. We funded 3D printing of protective face shields for hospitals and healthcare workers, added $2 million to the Hometown Care Energy Fund and started an online diaper drive. We identified ways we could make a difference as the pandemic continued.
Details about our donations and COVID-19 related support are available on a newly built resource page on our website – designed to help all customers find quick access to tips and information.
To ensure critical materials would remain accessible, we partnered with key suppliers. We also turned to two Wisconsin-based customers to manufacture and provide more than 15,000 fabric face coverings for our employees (this way, we could ensure we wouldn’t impact the N-95 supply required by healthcare workers). As the pandemic continued, our Supply Chain team turned to local businesses to purchase hand sanitizer, face coverings, gloves and disinfectant – to keep our employees safe.
Together, we are powering through this unprecedented time. As we look to tomorrow, we have a team preparing for our rebound, making plans to bring employees back to offices when it’s safe to do so.
New fast electric vehicle charger boosts clean transportation
Our new Level 3 fast car charger in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, is an excellent example of how we deliver a clean, reliable and renewable energy future for our customers and our communities. As more drivers choose electric vehicles, the need for more – and faster – charging stations will grow rapidly.
Conveniently located at the Highway 33/Highway 151 interchange, this charging station serves one of the busiest intersections in the state. Level 3 chargers are also known as “superfast chargers.” They can recharge a fully depleted all-electric vehicle battery to 80% strength in about the time it takes to get a bite to eat.
Energy monitoring pilot highlights savings opportunities
We are one of the first utilities in the U.S. to test the Sense® energy monitoring technology in homes. Our company initially rolled out this technology to select Wisconsin customers in 2018 based on energy use criteria maximizing pilot study results. The Sense monitor’s technology identifies individual devices so customers can track what’s on and off and how much energy each one uses.
This information is delivered to a mobile app, which translates usage into cost. Results show that residential electric customers could reduce their overall use by up to 9% by taking a thorough inventory of everything that’s plugged in and selectively shutting down unused, always-on devices. This could save customers up to $90 per household per year, or nearly one month’s typical electricity bill. We’ve enrolled 200 customers since 2018 and plan to install another 100 monitors this summer. We’ll learn from customer feedback and continue to assess the pilot results working with our regulators and the Focus on Energy program.
Economic development efforts recognized
Effective economic development is vital to sustainable growth in the communities we serve. In 2019, we successfully assisted with 38 projects for industrial expansions or new companies that will generate over $1.075 billion in new capital investment and create 2,182 new jobs.
We were also recognized as a Top Utility in Economic Development by Site Selection magazine. The magazine ranks companies on corporate project investment, job creation figures and utility service area populations.
Economic development team supports indoor ag operation
Our Economic Development team identified indoor agriculture as an industry that would most benefit our customers and communities. Their work, in partnership with local officials in Mason City, Iowa, helped bring Bushel Boy Farms to the city. The company is investing $35 million into a nearly 17-acre greenhouse with a 50,000-square-foot packing house that will employ 50 people. Local garden-fresh tomatoes will be available for Midwest customers year round – even in the winter!
Equipping Iowa first responders
Our Core Value to Live Safety. Everyone. Always. extends to public safety of the local communities in our service area. Volunteer fire departments in Mason City, Iowa, and the nearby region lacked a critical safety tool and needed four-gas monitors to alert them to the presence of hazardous gases. We stepped forward with a $10,000 contribution toward the purchase of monitors for 74 area fire departments.
Extreme Wisconsin storms result in extraordinary teamwork
Central and northern Wisconsin were hit hard by devastating weather systems from July 18 to 20, 2019. This included three lines of severe storms, 17 confirmed tornados, severe straight-line winds, large hail and heavy rains. Dozens of our electric poles were snapped – more than we’ve seen in at least 20 years.
On July 19, we had 11,000 customers without power. Hard work brought that number down to 4,500 by the next day. Then, more storms hit and boosted the outages to about 30,000. On July 22, fewer than 2,500 remained without service. By the end of July 23, all of our customers had power. Many groups helped out over the weekend. Extraordinary teamwork in challenging conditions demonstrated our company’s ongoing efforts to anticipate, prepare for and respond to weather events by being more resilient.
First Wisconsin community solar project planned
We are locating our first Wisconsin community solar facility in Fond du Lac County. Alliant Energy electric customers can subscribe to blocks of the project. A subscription allows the participating customer to purchase a portion of the energy that is generated by the solar array. This program allows customers to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy without installing their own solar panels. We anticipate construction on the project to commence later this year.
Beloit College student center emerges from repurposed coal plant
Our Blackhawk Generating Station building has transformed. It’s now a student union and recreation center for Beloit College. The $38-million Powerhouse project opened in early 2020. We retired the coal facility over a decade ago. Then, we worked closely with local officials as well as state and federal regulatory agencies to meet all environmental, health and safety requirements to properly reclaim the land. Finally, we turned over the structure to the college after they completed fundraising. The sustainable facility design incorporates historical plant features – including allowing visitors to peer into a 100-foot tall smokestack. Collaboration was key for this successful revitalization project.