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Alliant fights off lower electricity sales, focuses on strong renewables spending

Highlights

Iowa derecho hit hard in August

Five-year spending on renewables to reach $2.45 billion

Houston — Alliant Energy saw retail power sales continue to lag in the third quarter despite a roughly 2% year-over-year increase in residential sales, the company reported Nov. 3. Madison, Wisconsin-based Alliant saw its two utilities' retail sales for the first nine months fall 2%, with residential sales increasing just over 1%.

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The company laid the blame for the drop in its retail electricity sales on the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a 3.6% decline in sales in the second quarter of 2020. It blamed, as well, the Q3 decline on the strong winds of the Iowa derecho that hit in August. The company said the derecho impacted 341 of the 700 communities in Iowa that it serves.

According to the company's chairman, president and CEO, John Larsen, Alliant expects to see electricity sales improve in its two main service territories of Wisconsin and Iowa as the company pursues its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 that it announced in July.

Like other Midwest utilities, such as DTE Energy and Ameren Energy, Alliant is pursuing a significant transition to renewables.

Alliant's two public utility companies – Interstate Power and Light and Wisconsin Power and Light -- have combined generating capacity of just over 6,600 MW.

Alliant said it will be increasing the mix of renewables from its current 34% level to 53% by 2030. It also said its coal-fired generation, which is 25% of total generation now, will fall to 7% by 2030. It said its natural gas-fired generation will remain even at around 40%.

Larsen said, "We continue to achieve major milestones on our purpose-driven plan -- such as completing our 1,150 megawatts wind expansion." The company recently released its Iowa Clean Energy Blueprint, which includes the addition of up to 400 megawatts of new solar generation.

Capex

Alliant Energy has updated its projected net capital expenditures for 2020 through 2024, which now totals $6.6 billion.

The company said $2.45 billion in spending will go toward renewables over the five-year period, and $2.8 billion will go toward electric distribution systems. It said it expects to spend $455 million on its natural gas system.

The company said it "anticipates" receiving tax equity funding of approximately $210 million in 2022 and $480 million in 2023, which will be "an offset to capital expenditures" and will reduce rate base.

Larson said a $3 billion wind expansion in Iowa made it "the third largest wind owner and operator in the country."

The company is planning to install 400 MW of solar in Iowa by 2024, "which would bring Alliant's Iowa generation to over 60% renewables," Larsen said.

The company's Q3 2020 earnings came in at $246 million, or $0.98 per share, which compares with $226 million, or $0.94 per share, in 2019's third quarter.

Alliant's revenue in the quarter, however, fell 7.1% to $920 million from $990 million last year, the company reported.