Alliant customers question accuracy of smart meters

CLINTON -- Alliant Energy is answering questions regarding the company's new so-called "smart meters" after some customers complained about discrepancies in billing since their installation.

The apparent issue has come to light in recent months after some customers voiced concerns that their Alliant bills were much higher than in previous years. With the company being in the midst of rolling out the smart meter service, customers drew a correlation between the new meters and higher bills.

Last week, Alliant Senior Communication and Marketing Partner Justin Foss explained that while the bills may be higher for a variety of reasons -- including more severe weather last year, both hot and cold -- the bills are more accurate now because of the smart meters.

"Switching to this digital energy grid, the customers, as well as us at Alliant, are able to see a much faster, much more accurate energy reading," Foss said. "It's almost in real time that you're able to see exactly how much energy you're using, and be able to make adjustments to your energy use."

Foss says the company is still in the middle of the installation process, but that workers are "making great progress."

In October, a meeting facilitated by Iowa Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton) let area citizens voice their concerns in person to Alliant officials. Much of the conversation dealt with customers feeling their bills weren't fairly reflecting their energy use. However, Foss clarified that, in fact, their bills were even more accurate now than before.

Wolfe is continuing her conversation with local Alliant customers as well.

"I saw firsthand lots and lots of these peoples' bills," Wolfe said recently. "I was seeing jumps that didn't really make sense. Now, I think that the jumps were because of the estimating of bills that was going on before. Maybe the jumps were legitimate, I don't know, but I think any information regarding that kind of stuff should have been shared."

Wolfe said she's still in the process of trying to get more information, whether it comes directly from Alliant or elsewhere. Once more information is procured, Wolfe and her partners will decide how to proceed.

"Whether or not we need to request that information from Alliant or not, that's what we're figuring out," Wolfe said.

Foss said the company will continue its initiative to inform customers who still feel they have been wronged since the installation of their smart meters. Most importantly in the process, Foss said, is clearing up any misinformation that they've seen online, or heard in person.

"I think a lot of what we're doing is explaining that, just because the old meters were there forever, doesn't mean they were the best option for energy readings," Foss said. "Once people see that they are actually getting the accurate, instant access to their energy use, things will get better.

"We're encouraged with how many people we've seen are actually eager to learn about what's going on," Foss said.